Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

When Daddy is a Pastor

If anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless, and he deceives himself.” James 1:26

It wasn’t what it seemed.  The life of a pastor is, well, interesting.  In fact, the life of the pastor’s family is interesting.  You could say that we live in a glass house and that would be so true.  I remember when we lived in a parsonage (that’s a house provided by the church) and we had a wood burning stove.  It was difficult to control the heat so often we would leave the front door open to allow some cooler air in.  There was a sweet (and she really was) older lady who attended our church, and she was very concerned that we had our door open.  She would call saying, “Judy, do you know that your front door is open?”  Of course, we did, but she felt it was her civil and religious duty to make sure we were stewards of our electricity.

When we moved to Cobden, Illinois our girls were very young…five and four.  Back in those days during worship, the pastor had a big chair where he was to sit on the stage.  I don’t know if we did it that way to make the pastor seem important or so everyone could stare at him. It was just the way we did it.  Now here is what was interesting.  While I was sitting on the stage looking at everyone and everyone was looking at me, Judy was playing the piano.  Many pastors are blessed with musically talented wives, and I certainly was one of them.  Now don’t miss this.  I am on the stage and Judy was at the piano. Who do you suppose was watching the girls?  Well, that would be no one.  And you know, girls will be girls.

Like so many siblings, the girls loved to pick at one another.  It was always nothing serious…just enough to make mom and dad nervous.  Well, that Sunday was one of those days.  They were being little girls and poking and pinching each other. They were giggling enough to cause a bit of disturbance and to catch their mother’s eye.  Judy gave them “the look”.  Now every married man knows about “the look”.  Personally, I would rather stare down a cobra than face “the look”.  The problem was, while Judy was looking…they were not.  They were busy poking and pinching.  You might wonder what I was doing.  I was sitting on the stage trying to ignore the two little girls on the first or second row.  I was pretty good at it, too.  However, there was no ignoring the lady at the piano.

When they didn’t get the message, Judy made sure I did.  I don’t know if it was “the look” or smoke signals coming from behind the piano, but I got the message loud and clear.  Handle it.  As much as I didn’t like sitting on the stage on the throne, I preferred that to handling the girls in public.  I rose from the throne and walked straight to the girls.  I took them by the hand and as casually as possible led them out the side door of the sanctuary.  Now there is one thing that every pastor has to remember whether he is going to the restroom or taking his kids out to have a “come to Jesus meeting”.  Turn your microphone off. I didn’t.

As the door closes behind us, Becca, our oldest, and in her sweetest five-year-old voice says, “Daddy, please don’t hit us.”  Now, pause, because I know in this world the idea of hitting a child conjures up all kind of bad things.  If there was any hitting it was only going to be a gentle swat on the bottom.  Period.  I knew that and the girls knew that.  Thanks to my not turning my microphone off—everyone in the sanctuary knew it too.  You can probably imagine that sweet little voice coming over the speakers.  There were no tears between the three of us but there were plenty of tears in the sanctuary.  No, they weren’t grieving for those precious little girls—they were fine.  They were tears from laughing so hard.  We walked back into the sanctuary and every person was either rolling on the floor or trying to stay in their seat.  It was a Hallmark moment.

Yup…we live in a glass house for sure.  Even worse, I still had to stand up and preach later in the service. Amazingly, somehow, we made it through.  It is things like that which make our relationship with the families we serve so special.  I have deeply appreciated that through the years.   Anyone who knows the Taylor tribe knows that we are unapologetically human.  If you are looking for a perfect, plastic pastor family…well, you won’t find it with us. I’ve often said that people can handle Christians who make mistakes…they get that.  What they can’t handle is when we act like we are perfect and better than they are. Truth is we are neither.

James, the half-brother of Jesus, said if anyone thinks he is religious without controlling his tongue, his religion is useless, and he deceives himself. Well, spoken, James.  In fact, we could probably put several actions in place of controlling our tongue and come to the same conclusion.  I am always so grateful that God can handle our imperfections. He never regrets inviting us into His family, but He does desire for us to be honest and real…and so does everyone else.  Go ahead, take off the mask and just be you.  You can rest assured that His unconditional love will still be there…even when you leave your microphone on.  And, if you do, don’t worry, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

A Tale of Two Candles

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.” 2 Timothy 4:6a

They were only two candles…but they had a story to tell.  My job is talking.  Well, maybe, hopefully, it is more than that…it is teaching and sometimes preaching.  You remember preaching, don’t you?  That is that thing your parents did to you a lot when you were fifteen going on sixteen.  Well, when I am talking, or teaching, or preaching, it is important that I try to hold the people’s attention and get truth across in a way that is easy to understand.  Jesus did that and I am definitely partial to Him and how He did things.

Recently, when I was teaching, I was talking about the fact that each of us has one life, and it is important we figure out how we want to spend it. Paul, the one in the Bible, said it like this, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.” He was simply saying the one life he had was one he wanted to spend pleasing God.  At our church we like to say we want to spend our lives loving God and loving people.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?  To illustrate the point, I told a story about two candles.  The story is true, but I don’t have to worry about changing the names because the two candles didn’t have one.  It goes like this.

Several years ago, like five or six, my wife Judy and I bought a wall sconce.  It had a place for a candle to sit so we bought a beautiful candle which was yellow and a golden color.  The sides of the candle were carved with long, flowing ridges.  I hung the sconce and then put the candle in its new home.  And there it sat for the next five years…looking nice but never fulfilling its one purpose…to provide light.  Over the years it accumulated a thin layer of dust and the colors slowly faded.  Well, recently, we painted the room where the candle lived and when I took it and the sconce down…for the first time in a long time I took a close look and promptly tossed it in the trash.  It’s life was done and not once did it find its purpose.

Enter candle number two. It was a Saturday morning in late September and fall was in the air.  I was in my home office writing, and I finally opened the door to go downstairs.  Immediately I smelled the aroma of one of our favorite candles.  It is called Leaves and comes from Bath and Body.  Judy and I both love this candle.  I knew at once she had lit one down in the kitchen and the scent of fall had slowly made its way all the way upstairs to where I was standing.  In an instant I felt as if the seasons had changed and it was time to celebrate.

I went downstairs and sure enough there in the kitchen was the three-wick candle burning…allowing itself to be consumed.  And, in that process, two things happened.  First, the candle was fulfilling its destiny.  There would be no life spent on a shelf somewhere for this candle.  Soon, it would be gone…consumed by flame and purpose.  Second, the aroma that the candle gave as it was consumed left a longing and satisfying scent through the house.  For a while, even when the candle was no longer burning, the scent of its purpose filled the room and the house.  Soon, the glass container that held the candle will be empty and discarded but the candle won’t be there…it will have been consumed…with purpose.

I love this story because it challenges me to ask the question, “What candle do I want to be?  Do I want to be the one that stayed safely on the wall slowing dying a purposeless death or be the one that allowed itself to be consumed with purpose…the one that left a sweet aroma even after its own demise? Well, for me at this moment the answer is simple.  I want to live a life of purpose—loving God, and loving people.  I want my memory to bring a sweet aroma into the lives of those who knew me and a smile on the face of my Dearest Daddy.  I hope to hear, I want to hear, “Well done” from the One who made me.

Like Paul, the one in the Bible, I know I haven’t arrived…I still fumble the ball a lot, but that same Dearest Daddy waits to pick me up when I stumble.  I like that too, a lot.  And I’m learning that a lot of the people I bump into are graceful and understanding too.  So, if you’ve found that you are stuck somewhere on a wall, slowing fading and becoming dusty, why not come on down and fulfill your purpose…to live, to love God and people.  You will find it’s a great way to live. Oh, and don’t be afraid of failing.  We all have the confident assurance that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Welcome Home

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

That’s a wrap.  When a film crew is filming, and the job is complete they call it a wrap.  The filming is over, done, finito (that’s Italian for finished…impressive huh?) Well, while the Covid virus is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives, apparently it is finito. With herd immunity and all the new medicines available, its power has been dramatically reduced.  If you ever saw the cartoon version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you remember that the abominable snowman lost his bite then they pulled his teeth.  So now, it seems with Covid also.

I heard the other day that our President even announced that it was done and looking around I agree. The other night my wife, Judy, and I went out to eat and we chose Cracker Barrel.  Now believe it or not, this restaurant has been a pretty good judge of Covid’s impact.  Of course, there was a time during Covid when it was closed, there was a time when they spaced everyone out and there were no condiments on the tables.  There was a time when there were paper menus that were promptly trashed after someone touched them.  And, when you walked in there might be a couple of dozen people there. But now, it seems, things have changed.

As I said, Friday night, we visited the closest Cracker Barrel. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was just about full.  I told Judy, “I sure hope we don’t have to wait.” I hate waiting…especially waiting to eat.  We walked in and to my surprise there wasn’t a line.  The hostess asked how many, picked up a couple of menus and took us to our table.  Well, here you go.  The first dining room was totally full…something that I had not seen for two years.  There were condiments on the tables and people were talking, laughing, and eating.  The next dining room was about 70 percent full but that is where we found our table.  Our hostess gave us a couple of real menus and that is when I said it, “Judy, it is normal.” So, we enjoyed a great meal and well, it all just felt good.

Normalcy.  It does feel good, but the truth is somethings just aren’t.  I went to the hospital to visit some folks this week and they are still requiring masks…sorta.  The signs say you must be screened to enter but you don’t.  The signs say that even one, including patients, must wear a mask but none of patients did though most other people did.  A real strange outcome of all of this is the job market.  There apparently are more jobs than people who want to work. I saw a sign that said, “Now Hiring…Just Like Everyone Else.” And believe it or not, when some people take a job, they may only stay a few days or weeks.  How different…how strange.

I went to my hearing doctor this week and he asked me how church (he knows I am a pastor) was going and what percentage of people have come back.  I told him we were running about 80 or 85 percent of our pre-Covid numbers.  The truth is while Covid was doing its thing some folks just gave up on the church thing.  Now that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they gave up on God, they just came to the conclusion that church wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m sure some people feel the same way about Cracker Barrel—pre-Covid they loved it but now they can do without it.  How different…how interesting.

As a preacher, pastor guy I’m hoping that more of those who stopping coming and some who never came will rediscover and discover the value of this part of normalcy.  I never gave up on Cracker Barrel because I love their breakfast and their meatloaf isn’t too bad either.  There are several things that your local church provides that are worth hanging on to.  Chief among them are friendships and fellowship, someone to walk with you and your family as you do life, studying the number one bestselling book, the Bible, and being together with other people who think God is still relevant…because He is.

So, welcome back to normal.  As you rediscover life, I hope you will enjoy a great meal somewhere familiar…maybe Cracker Barrel or better a local place that misses you.  And why not think about coming home to God’s house.  Truthfully, they need you and you need them. The church offers something that nothing, not hobbies, not sports, not anything else can provide. It offers hope…it offers Jesus.  Whoever wrote Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Now that’s some good advice.  I know, sometimes it is hard to come home but your Dearest Daddy is waiting and ready to help.  Don’t worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Beyond Words

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.” Psalm 19:1-3

Though it was two years ago…I can still remember it. It was a wonderful, wonder filled night.  It was a Friday night, and it was beautiful.  After a day of cool temperatures and clear skies the sun bowed out and night moved in.  My wife Judy and I decided to build a fire out on our patio and just enjoy the evening.  Using my incredible fire building skills, which included opening one of those wax logs and lighting it, we soon were enjoying its light and warmth. It was perfect. As the smoke rose into the crystal-clear sky it caused me to pause and be amazed.  I agreed with God. After He was done with creation, He said it was very good.  He was right.

The slowly rising smoke caused me to look to the skies.  As darkness settled in, slowly, ever so slowly, the stars came out for their evening performance.  That was good too.  And then I noticed what we see and rarely stop to ponder.  Streaking across the sky was a jetliner.  By now it was only visible because of its flashing navigation lights.  Here’s what is so amazing.  That cylinder tube with wings was flying at about 30,000 feet…that’s almost six miles up in the sky.  It weighed in at approximately 175,000 pounds and was carrying dozens of people.  Pause.  A man-made object, weighing 87.5 TONS is effortlessly moving through the sky at a speed of right around 500 miles per hour.  That is amazing.

Now you may be one of those folks who believe that we humans showed up from a glob of jelly laying on a beach somewhere but personally, I don’t have that much faith.  I believe that there is a Creator God and He made us…fearfully and wonderfully.  How else do you explain 87.5 tons zipping through the air?  You could cite the law of aerodynamics but even that law was figured out and applied by God’s most wonderful creation.  But it gets better.

A little later I told Judy that it would be very cool if the space station flew over.  Now this modern marvel flies out in space—that’s why it is called the “space” station.  Get ready to be amazed.  It flies 240 miles above the earth at a speed of 17,136 miles an hour.  It weighs in at 925,000 pounds.  On that particular day there were three people on board, an American and two Russians and they had been on board for 165 days.  Can someone say, “amazing?”

Well, my neighbor happened to come home, and we were chatting.  He looks up and says, “Oh, there goes a satellite.” I got up and looked and it wasn’t a satellite…it was the space station, and it was amazing.  Though I have seen it several times each time I am just amazed.  I’m amazed not at what man built as much as the God who created man and gave him the intellect and ability to create and build.  Once again…God and I agreed…it was very good.

The night crept on, and I looked up again and noticed one very bright star in the southern sky accompanied by a little sister just to its left.  I asked Judy, “I wonder what star that is?”  So, we got on our handy iPhones and looked it up.  It turns out that they were not stars at all but two of the planets that circle our sun…Jupiter and Saturn.  Jupiter was the star of the show by far—pun intended.  Here’s what is really amazing.

The light that I saw coming from Jupiter that night had travelled 43 minutes through space to get to earth.  That may not seem too impressive until you consider the speed of light is 186,000 miles per SECOND. How’s that for a wow? You see, as wonderful as jetliners and space stations are…they pale to what God did all by Himself.  I just had to agree with God again…it is very good.

But Jupiter is just one small planet in our small solar system, that is a small part in our relatively small galaxy called the Milky Way.  And beyond our little galaxy there are millions and millions of galaxies.  What we see with our naked eye is just a fraction of all that is out there.  And all of it exists for one reason and one reason only.  The Bible tells us that the heavens are there to declare the glory of God.  All those stars, solar systems, and galaxies are there to sing the praises of our incredible God.  And He is worth every note and a million, zillion more besides.

Tonight, if the skies are clear, go out and take a peek.  You might see a jetliner streaking across the sky and maybe even the space station, but what you certainly will see is God’s choir singing the praises of their Creator.  Maybe you should join them in a chorus or two.  Oh, and be sure and sing what should be your favorite God song.  It goes something like this, “I can rest in the arms of my Dearest Daddy for He holds me secure.  I can go to sleep tonight knowing He has this…because He does.”  Amen.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Scripture, Grace, life, Family, thankful, loving others, priorities, friends

“We Over Me”

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

Ok…let’s be honest.  I am not a huge fan of sports.  It all started on the playground when I was always, and I do mean always, the last kid picked.  I discovered I had zero kickball skills.  Later, about 4th grade, my Momma (and I guess Daddy) signed me up for little league baseball.  It was there and then I discovered that the problem wasn’t just kickball, it was anything to doing with a ball…or anything else that might be called a sport.  Fortunately, for me my junior high and high schools were massive so unlike some schools where if you didn’t play sports everyone noticed…for me I just blended in with the masses. There was the yearbook thing but who reads that anyway?

When my kids came along God was merciful and gave me three daughters…and while one cheered and one played a little basketball that was the extent of our involvement with sports.   If they had been boys and more sports minded, well, I’m not sure what I could have taught them. I do enjoy watching sports…especially college football.  I am a fan of Notre Dame which is kinda odd given the fact that I am a Baptist preacher, and they are a Catholic School.  But I love the tradition and I love it when they win which this year, well, they are struggling a little.

I wrote all of that to say this—today I went to my third baseball game in like five days.  There are a couple of reasons—the first one  is a no brainer—my oldest grandson is a sports player and he loves baseball.  He was playing so I made it a point to go.  The second one is similar but different.  Our Middle School team was finishing up their season and today they played their first playoff game.  Nine of these young players are tied to our church and I went as their pastor and friend.  Today they won 16 to 1.  That probably tells you something.

These young men have been playing together for years.  Starting in their elementary years through now they grew together—as friends—as a team.  A chunk of the team are eighth graders and frankly—this is their year.  So here is the impossibly incredible part.  As of today, they are 24 and 0.  That’s right, they have won twenty-four straight games and all you have to do is watch them to see that is not an accident.  It is a product of relationship, skills, and team mentality.  Let me tell you a little more.

When I got to the game today, I noticed that on the back of their jerseys it said, WE ME.  So, imagine in large letters the word WE and beneath that is a line and then under the line is the word ME.  Well, not being the sharpest tack in the pack, I asked someone what it meant.  They said, now wait for it, it’s gonna be good, “You know we is more important than me.  We comes before me.”  Well, let me just tell you that was a wow moment for me.  I don’t know who came up with that but they should get some kind of award.  WE over ME.  Love it.

Like I said there is a reason why these guys are where they are, but a piece of the puzzle is that team comes before the individual…you come before me.  It isn’t about one person…it is about every person.  Someone said that there is no “I” in “team” and that is so true.  Now, imagine if the “we before me” thing was applied to our part of our world.  Marriage? Family? Church? Job? Club? If your mind is whirling with the possibilities—you got it.

Paul, the one in the Bible, had a version of this too.  He wrote in Philippians 2:3, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Boom…there you go.  We over me just works every time.  Of course, we Jesus people could also, should also say, “HE over ME” with Jesus being the “He.”  Yup that works too.

Well, I am very proud of our Middle School baseball team.  Way to go guys.  They have a few more playoff games coming but hey, I’m thinking State.  Regardless…they are all winners, and I am thankful for them and the men who coach and lead them. I’m not sure if God picks sides in sports but He might and He would say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

One Thing I Know

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Momma always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good Momma and Daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but every day.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and Momma mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Momma was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with a stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and Momma sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach, but it sure made my heart feel better.

Momma had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, Momma was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess Momma thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, Momma just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us, and Momma was always there to help us get better.

However, Momma didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil, and I made a sign warning other people to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, Momma’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so Momma took her to the doctor, and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our ears, nose, and throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to Momma that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, Momma agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So, the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted, and I was in.  A few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about Momma’s medical skills and judgement, but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my Momma loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, Momma always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices, but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my Momma was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all things.  I know Momma loved me a lot but even her love must pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my Momma loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomachache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

A Lesson from the Beanfield

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen.  The small town where I live is a diverse group of people with a diverse economy.  Not too many years ago there were many coal mines providing massive amounts of jobs to those living in and around our town of Harrisburg.  Also surrounding our town are fields and fields of crops…mostly soybeans and corn.  While the coal mines fell victim to the economy and the unfavorable political landscape, fortunately the farmers are still planting and plowing away.

Well, not too far from my house, there is a soybean field that each year it is planted teaches me a very valuable lesson.  As soybean fields go it is not that large, but it is still several dozen acres even though it is located in town.  But what makes this field so different?  Let me explain.  By this time of the year, the bean plants have all turned brown and the pods and beans are left standing to allow them time to dry out.  At the right time, the farmer will bring a combine in and in short order…the plants and beans will be history.  Well, at least most of the plants.

You see, at this particular field, there is a busy road that borders the field.  On that busy road there are two or three streetlights that are close enough to the field to illuminate the plants around that area all through the night.  Because of that, the plants receive some sort of light 24 hours a day. That sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, my farmer friends tell me it isn’t. You would think more light equals more growing and more growing means more beans, but it just isn’t true with soybeans. You see, for the plants to sprout and produce beans they need a certain amount of darkness.  Without that darkness, you have large, green, lush plants but not a single bean.  Not one. Nada.

It can and would go unnoticed except for all the other plants in the field are brown and about to give up their harvest but the plants by the light are in stark contrast in two ways.  Their color…green and their lack of a coming harvest.  So, when the combine goes to that field, they will carefully avoid the green plants.  There is no sense harvesting plants with no beans.  They will be left standing as a testimony to a great truth.  Soybeans, and people for that matter, need a little darkness to become what they were meant to be. Think about that.

None of us like hard times, valley times, but the truth is…that is when we learn, that is when we become stronger and if you are a spiritual person…that is when our faith in God grows the most.  Being a Jesus follower, I’m inclined to believe that is at least one reason God allows some difficultly in our lives.  People sometimes want to know if God is so good why does He allow this or that.  Well, borrowing a line from the movie, “Rudy,” when he wanted to know why God hadn’t allowed him to make the Notre Dame football team, his priest said, “I know two things.  There is a God. I am not Him.” That’s pretty powerful if you ask me.

We all want to know why bad things happen, especially to good people…I get that.  I have a ton of questions personally, but I’m learning that in the times when I don’t get it…I don’t understand…I can still trust Him.  And honesty…that just isn’t hard.  As I look back over my life, I can see time and again how He stepped up for me…protected me…cared for me.  Those times make the other times bearable.  I like what Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Frankly, I like having a God so much bigger than me that I can’t figure Him out. There’s a calming assurance in that.

So, if you ever are driving through our farming country and you spot a brown field with green plants next to a streetlight, well, just remember this story and the lesson it taught us about soybeans and us. We need a little darkness to help us grow.  And don’t you worry, if you are one of God’s kids, your Dearest Daddy knows exactly what He is doing.  You can take it to the bank, or the grain bin, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Trials

Speak No Evil

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

It’s gonna happen…it just should not happen there.  Life is filled with bumps and bruises.  They’re gonna happen like it or not but sometimes they are made worse by the timing and location.  A flat tire is never fun but take that same flat tire and let it happen on a rainy Monday on the way to an interview for a new job and it is just worse.  Your car breaking down is just a bad deal but when it happens out in the middle of nowhere and with no cellphone service…well, your day just went south.

I once experienced something that well, it just shouldn’t have happened but where it happened and how it happened just made it worse.  It was a Sunday morning in South Georgia and like any other Sunday morning I was in church.  I went to church for several reasons…like it was the right thing to do, I thought it might make God happy and usually I enjoyed it.  On this particular day…well, let’s just say I had that proverbial flat tire on a rainy Monday out in the middle of nowhere.  The story goes like this.

Ever since I was a kid I liked to sing, and people said they enjoyed it.  So, I was occasionally asked to sing at church.  On this particular Sunday morning I was asked to sing.  Now there is something you need to know before we go any further.  You see, the church I attended was strict with certain things and one of those things was that guys should not have hair over their ears.  That was a big no, no.  And believe it or not, even though I was in the Air Force I had found a way to have hair over my ears.  It involved “Dippity-do” but that’s another story.

Well, that Sunday was my time to sing.  I went to the stage and did the very best I could to sing for Jesus.  With my “hair over my ears” waving in the wind I went up and I came down.  I was glad to sing but was also glad it was over.  Well, it wasn’t.  Because that Sunday we had a special speaker.  And because of what happened, I remember him very, very, well.  He stepped behind the pulpit, and I got the surprise of my young life.  I was surprised because what he said was like a dagger in my heart.  Here’s what he said.

With his deep and authoritative voice, in front of the entire church, he said, “Young man, if I had hair like yours, I would be ashamed to stand up and sing for Jesus.”  I was shocked.  I was hurt.  I was mortally embarrassed.  Not because of my hair, not because I had caused Jesus to frown (which I didn’t) but because this man who represented God had put me on trial, judged me, and sentenced me.  Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t walk out and keep right on walking.

Like I said, things like this happen but they should never, ever happen in church.  We wonder why people don’t want to come to church and unfortunately too often it is things like this.  You see, church should be a safe place…a loving place.  Church should be a place not for perfect people (because there aren’t any) but for forgiven people.  Church should be a grace place and not a place to judge and throw rocks.  Church should be a place where people see Jesus everywhere…in the lives of everyone.

I love the fact that the people who flocked to Jesus were the most broken in the community.  They liked Him and He loved them. He was perfectly comfortable with sitting down with the worse sinner in town and having lunch.  Trust me, that drove the religious people crazy.  They said some very nasty things about Jesus because of that but the truth is…Jesus came to rescue the lost, the broken…people like me and you.

Well, the good news is I survived that Sunday morning, but it left a scar that remains to this day. My wife reminded me that my pastor came up afterwards and apologized.  I’m glad he did.  We need to have the courage to speak up when a wrong occurs…Jesus would. I can never get enough of the story in the Bible about the woman taken in adultery.  The rock throwers wanted to kill her but instead Jesus loved and forgave her.  I like that. A lot.  So, if you find yourself wounded by a rock chucker just remember Jesus loves you…even if someone else doesn’t.  And remember, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, Trials

Sandspurs from the Past

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

It was a voice from my past—and it was singing the blues.  While we were in Southwest Florida on holiday, I tried to keep up with my morning routines.  That included, first and foremost, coffee.  After coffee and a look at the weather came God time.  After God time came Judy time.  After Judy time came—exercise time.  The problem with all these times is they all take time.  Before I knew it, the sun was up, the humidity was up, and the temperature was up.  Regardless, I had to get up and get going.

The first morning we were there I was still learning the lay of the land and wasn’t exactly sure where I should walk.  So, I headed toward the way in and out of our condo property.  This led to the highway and so I took a left and decided to walk on the edge of the road.  It was safe but it was miserable.  There was no shade and soon it was just plain hot—very hot— “why am I doing this” hot.  I was determined to go my 3.6 miles, but I began wondering if this was such a good idea.  After a little while longer I was sure it wasn’t.  But you know how men are—do or die and in this case, death might have been an upgrade.  Ok, I’m exaggerating.

In my misery, I met an old friend.  There was a point when I had to cross a bridge across a channel.  They had built a walkway but to get to the walkway you had to go behind a guardrail through the weeds.  Without breaking stride, I charged on and then I saw them.  Sandspurs.  These were old friends from my childhood.  They are a type of weed and have sharp, spine covered balls of pain at the ends of long stems.  They will grab anything that gets close and if that happens to be your skin…you are done.  If they don’t get you when they attach, they will get you when you try to detach them. Ugh.

Like I said, they were an old foe from my childhood.  When I was a kid, we would run barefoot all the time and without fail we would step on them. They would hurt…bad.  Well, this time, even though I tried to avoid them, they found their way onto my shoes and socks, but I didn’t find them till I got back from my walk.  As I was sitting by the pool trying to recover from a 145-heart rate and the 100-degree humidity, I found them. And, just like the old days, they made sure to give me a “stick and an ouch” as I tried to remove them.  Just.Like.The.Old.Days.  Though it was years ago, the whole sandspur scene was painfully fresh.

I find that sandspurs aren’t the only painful thing that love to bump into our present.  Often, too often, unpleasant memories and regrets, sneak back into our lives and cause us pain all over again.  Try as we may, sometimes, it seems they reattach themselves to us and we relive the whole hot mess again.  It could be a similar situation or maybe a repeat performance, but all the pain and remorse come flooding back.  I hate it, you hate it, but how do we avoid it?

Well, I tried to avoid the sandspurs on my walk.  I saw them, I knew they were there, but in my rush, my determination to exercise, I simply didn’t give them the wide berth they deserved.  I should have made it a higher priority. I realized that when I was trying to remove them.  When you sense or when you feel your ugly, painful past creeping into the present, do whatever it takes to change the scenario. Don’t allow yourself to relive the “sandspurs” of past failures. Trust me—they will attach themselves to your present with all their former pain.

There is one more thing that is even more important than that.  Should you find yourself reliving that regret, run straight into the arms of grace.  Remember and relive the forgiveness that came after the failure.  The Bible tells us that God casts our failures as far as the east is from the west.  I love that because it doesn’t say as far as the north is from the south. You see if you go north long enough you will find the south.  But not so with east from the west.  You can travel east forever and never find the west.  And that dear friend, is what God does with our failures and sin if we ask Him for forgiveness and help. It is gone—outta here and that is real good news.

Well, I couldn’t wait to show Judy my sandspurs, not because I liked them but because they reminded me of an important part of my past and the fact that I knew they were not going to be a permanent part of my future.  I may have bumped into them, but I wasn’t going to live with them. And that is a good thing. So, as you are speed walking through life, remember to give your painful past a wide berth and keep Jesus close by your side. You’ll find Him a mobile “rest stop,” there to make every step, every day survivable and “thrive-able.” And never forget, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful

Just Follow the Recipe

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It sounds morbid but it’s not…I think.  My wife Judy and I have been married forever and that means we are not quite as young as we used to be.  Sometimes, to pass the time, we joke around and sometimes that includes what would happen if one of us was to uh, well, you know, pass.  So, I’ve always told her if she was to go first, I wouldn’t remarry…I would just get a dog.  I laugh and she laughs but then she always assures me that would never work.  She and I both know just how much I depend on her to do life.  I can clean house…kinda.  I can wash clothes…sorta…you know, all in one big load but there is one thing that I can’t do.  I can’t cook.

When she leaves town to babysit or whatever, the menu at the Taylor house changes dramatically.  If it is anything more than grits in the microwave, a sandwich, or a frozen dinner…we are in deep weeds.  So, the other day, when my friend David began talking about cooking, I started listening.  He is a great cook…actually on that particular day it was a smoked Boston butt with the fixings and a homemade, handmade peach cobbler with homemade ice cream.  Like I said…he can cook.

As we were talking about cooking, he mentioned that he had a scale and instead of measuring all the ingredients, he weighed all the ingredients (in grams). So instead of a cup of flour you might have 283 grams of flour. He said that most recipes give the amounts in grams too. And, if you do this, it becomes really easy to follow a recipe and if I could follow a recipe, I should be able to cook. Boom! Cooking problem solved and I could still get a dog.

The big thing about the scale is that it is just more accurate.  A packed cup of flour is probably a lot more than a cup of flour loosely put in the cup.  Well, the more accurate the measurements are, the better the end result.  Are you tracking with me?  The scale is a game changer and guess what?  So is God. Just like the scale would help me stay on track with the recipe, so God can and will help me walk the path of life.  With Him, life isn’t perfect, but it is better…so much better.

The reason I am a terrible cook isn’t that I can’t read, it is that I want to change the recipe. I always figure if one cup of sugar is good…two would certainly be better.  If a teaspoon of cinnamon is good in an apple pie…well, two should be twice as good.  But if I had a scale and was willing to follow the scale…I could make a perfect pie every time.  And when I, when we, are willing to follow God in the recipe of life…we can cook up some good pies…trust me.

 I have grown to love something that is recorded in one of the Old Testament books.  In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I know that is written to the nation of Israel, but I also know the truth is written for every one of God’s kids.  So, as you are whipping up days and experiences in the kitchen of life, be sure and invite God to come along.  Follow Him and the disasters are fewer and farther apart.  When the dust from the flour clears, you can be assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne