Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Paradise Lost and Found

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17

It was paradise lost. I’m not sure why it happened.  And I’m not sure how it happened…but it did.  Over the years, we had accumulated a great collection of large tropical plants to accent our patio during the summer.  Our guests love our garden, and I suppose they loved our plants too.  But then something happened.  You see, to keep them alive through the winter, we would move them into our garage and nurse them during the cold weather.  We would install special lights, water them, and learn to squeeze our car in-between them.  It was a hassle, but we did it…until we didn’t

This year, well, we didn’t. It all started when we had a light frost early in the season and since Judy was gone…I just didn’t mess with it.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that somehow, they survived. Since it happened on my watch, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Well, apparently that opened a pandora’s box because when the next frost came, and I believe it was on my watch again, I found a reason to throw caution to the wind.  Once again, they survived and so did I.

Fast forward a little while later and we were deeper into fall and nudging winter.  With Judy back, the plants were in safer hands.  When the temperatures threatened to move from frost to freeze, we braved the cold wind and move them inside displacing the car to the fate of the cold.  Well, sure enough, it warmed up again and out they came.  Well, if you are regular Grits reader, you know we recently went on a cruise.  We knew the forecast called for a couple of cold mornings, but we were pressed for time, and we just couldn’t think of anyone to gather the plants in for us…so we left them to their fate.

Sure enough, it froze and so did they…all of them.  At first, it wasn’t too bad but then it was.  Some quickly, some slowly began to show the damage of a freeze on something that was never meant to see it or feel it.  Some leaves wilted and some turned dark brown.  The result was paradise lost.  What was once beautiful how looked like a tropical war zone.  It also meant that there is a lot of whacking and cleaning up to do.  It is sad in a way but wait, there is a silver lining.

You see, first, there is going to be a lot more room in my garage this winter.  Yay.  It also means that come spring there is going to be a fresh start…a new beginning.  Yes, there will be a cost involved…there usually is for new beginning…when something is reborn. But it will be worth it. Several of the plants were showing their age and the new will be fresher than the old. It.Will.Be.Worth.It.

You know God said the same thing about us, don’t you?  You know that God knew we needed a lot more than a time in the “garage,” we needed a fresh start, a new birth and yes, it came at a great price.  It meant there had to be a Christmas and there had to be an Easter.  It meant His Son leaving heaven for a stable and a feeding trough and it meant a rugged Roman cross, a horrible death but gratefully…also a resurrection.  It meant we could go from eternal death to eternal life—that we could go from war to peace—that we could call Him…wait for it…Father. But all that was possible only after the price was paid. Like the song says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, but He made it white as snow.”

White as snow. From death to life. How amazing is that?  Soon, very soon, I will scour the yard and remove the death…preparing for spring and new life.  I’m going to look past the present and look forward to the new…to spring.  And, if your world looks a little like my backyard with more dead than alive, just remember that God waits to bring new life into your life.  He said in John 3:17 that His Father didn’t send Him to condemn the world but rather through Him we, you, could be saved…rescued…redeemed.”  That is good…that is really good.  So, no matter the mess, write it down…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving

Leftovers and Ruts

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

It’s Friday…turkey again. Well, the big day was a big deal and for most of us it circled around a big meal.  In many cases homes were filled with family and like planes in a landing pattern at the airport, they circled the feast wondering where to land. There were so many choices…it was like Golden Corral had moved into our kitchens.  So, we circled, we landed, and we ate. But there is one tradition that we can’t forget when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Invariably we prepare way too much and that can only mean one thing: leftovers. It is like the feast all over again…like a good ballgame going into overtime.

So, at least around the Taylor tribe there is always a round two.  Sometime after dessert and a nap, we groggily rise from the couch or bed and mosey into the kitchen.  There the plates are retrieved from the refrigerator or maybe just uncovered, and we do it again.  Oh, leftovers, life is sweet indeed.  After everyone has had their fill, again, anything that is left goes back to the refrigerator again.  And, like Lazarus in the Bible, don’t worry they will get resurrected again…and again.

Leftovers are a game a preference.  For some it is game over after the main event, for others there is a round two, a round three and who knows…a round four.  I know for my wife Judy and me the rule seems to be oh, about a week.  Recently she cooked a great dish of baked spaghetti, and it was awesome…not once, not twice but for five days we enjoyed it until the last serving make its way to the microwave.  Oh, and by the way, yup, it was still good, way good. But all good things must come to an end and so it is with leftovers.  Each kitchen master will make the decision when it is time to move from leftovers and makeovers (aka turkey born again) to something new and fresh.  That is a good thing…and in life that is a necessary thing.

As we do life it is often too easy to get stuck and be satisfied with the leftovers…with whatever.  Again, it works for food a few days but eventually what we enjoyed the first day or two can and will be toxic.  The fine line is to know when it is time for something else, something fresh, something new.  In the kitchen we call them leftovers but in life we call them ruts.  Ruts are when we simply do the same thing over and over again because they are easy, they are familiar, they are comfortable.  Well, ruts may be all of that and more, but ruts can be dangerous. Like leftovers left too long on the counter or too long in the refrigerator, ruts can lead to spoilage. Ruts can damage marriages, stifle careers and make relationships staler than two-week-old bread.  Most sadly, spiritual ruts can make God seem out of date, unnecessary, and eventually unwanted.

So, what is the answer to the leftover dilemma.  Well, perhaps we should follow the advice of the guy in the song, “The Gambler.”  We need to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away.”  God never intended life and never intended our relationship with Him to be like five-day old turkey. In fact, He invites us to His table where there are no leftovers, only fresh bread and living water.  Jesus called Himself that for a reason. He was saying don’t settle for the old when you can have the new…don’t eat stale when you can have life and have it more abundantly.

So, enjoy the leftovers this Thanksgiving but be sure they don’t become permanent fare.  And, most importantly, don’t let your friendship and fellowship with your Dearest Daddy digress to leftovers—for He wants something new for you every day.  Need help with that? No problem, just ask. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

A Thanksgiving to Remember

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

It was a Thanksgiving to remember.  Throughout the years, Thanksgiving has been a big deal in our family.  Growing up it was a time when Momma would buy a huge turkey and cook it all night in the roaster oven that set by the stove for such an occasion.  It was a time when pies were baked, ambrosia was made, and giblet gravy simmered on the stove.  It was a time for two kinds of dressing—cornbread and cornbread with oysters. I’m not sure where that came from, but it was pretty popular.  Then, of course, it was a time when most everyone would come home, and we would feast on good food and fellowship with family.

When I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Air Force things had to change.  My first duty station was about 15 miles from the Canadian border in a town called Minot—Minot, North Dakota.  I arrived there in October, and it was already too cold for a Florida boy.  The holidays were looming ahead, and it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a solo flight.  But then something happened.  Somehow, remember this is long before cellphones, my brother Jimmy, who lived in Amarillo, Texas, called and invited me to his house for Thanksgiving.

Again, somehow, someway, it happened.  My base pay of $320 per month didn’t allow for plane tickets so it meant a trip to the credit union to see if I could get a loan. They granted it and I bought the ticket, got my leave approved and had someone haul me to the airport. So, like the song says, over the river and through the woods, I was on my way, not to grandmother’s house but my brother’s.  I can remember flying down to Amarillo on that two engine, piston driven, plane feeling excited and afraid all at the same time.  What in the world was I doing?

Soon enough, I was on the ground and there was my big brother and a couple of his kids waiting for me.  The best I can remember he worked, maybe managed, a ranch of sorts.  It seemed we drove a long way out into the Texas countryside before finally arriving at his house.  The next day was Thanksgiving and it was so much like the one at home.  We ate well and enjoyed good family fellowship.  The thing that was so different was that in the past I was treated as the baby of the family—which I was.  But that day—I was his peer.  I was a man.

As much as I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day, the next couple of days were also awesome.  We went jackrabbit hunting.  It was cold with snow covering the ground, and we would jolt and bounce through the fields in his old Willis Jeep.  Back at the house we drank hot coffee as he would spin tales about his time in the Air Force.  Jimmy was always bigger than life and he was that day too.  We also put up the Christmas tree while I was there.  One of his favorite Christmas albums was Charlie Pride’s “Christmas in My Hometown.” We played it over and over again while I was there.  To this day it is still one of my favorites.

Soon it was time for me to head back to the far north.  We headed back to the airport and soon those piston engines were shaking and vibrating the old plane again as I flew back to Minot.  I’ve had many good Thanksgivings over the years but that one stands out for me.  It was a time when my brother made sure I wasn’t alone at a time when too many were.  That was back in 1972 so a lot of water has flowed beneath the bridge.  I’m decades older and he is now in heaven.  But I am left with the memories…memories that still refresh my soul and make me smile.

To be honest, there are other Thanksgivings that were not so easy…times when another brother and his family were not on speaking terms with the family, times when Daddy was sick and times when the family went separate ways. But I have grown to realize that each of us have a choice.  We can choose to remember and relish the good times, or we can remember and dwell on the hard times.  The choice is ours.  Paul, the guy who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament in the Bible had plenty of hard memories.  He was a pretty bad guy before he met Jesus.  After Jesus, he began to write some new stories in his life, and he made the decision to leave the past in the past.  We should too.

I know holidays can be hard because of the past, or maybe the present. Let me encourage you to choose to remember the good and let go of the rest.  It’s not easy but it is possible—with a little help from God.  I know these days He’s getting a lot of bad press, but trust me, if you don’t know Him you should get acquainted.  He loves you more than you know, and He wants to help you do life here.  He can even help with those difficult memories.

One of the things that is a staple of mine in life is to eat and nap. Today, Lord willing, I will eat a very good meal, and I will take a very nice nap.  Try it—you’ll like it.  Also today, I’m going to take a nap of sorts with my best friend Jesus. I’m going to pull aside, rest and just chat about all the ways He has blessed me.  It might take a while because I’m pretty blessed—and so are you.  We also will probably talk about some of the hard things going on now. He won’t judge me—He will just love me. You know that Thanksgiving so many years ago my brother treated me as his peer. Today Jesus treats me as a friend—a friend closer than a brother.  A friend that can handle my past and my future.  A friend I can trust. That’s why, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

Worth Every Mile

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was crazy but worth every mile.  For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened.  While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know for us that was a good time.  Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.

I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service.  To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.

Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand.  We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic.  That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song.  It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.

There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills.  That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause.  Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average.  As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.

By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am.  1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour.  I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now.  Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning?  Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.

Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am.  We were tired.  We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter.  We were there.  We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity.  There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe.  Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all.  Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”

Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day.  The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was.  We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot.  And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic.  Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore.  And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.

While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too.  Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks.  Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As always, he was spot on.  Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do.  And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving, Trials

Black Friday Sale

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

We stumbled into Black Friday.  It was 1980.  We had just returned from a three-year tour in Germany while serving in the United States Air Force.  It is amazing how things can change in three short years.  We enjoyed our time in Germany immensely, but it was so good to get back to the greatest country in the world…the USA. We were being assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.  No, I am not kidding.  We quickly settled into the new version of our old life.  See, you only thought “new normalcy” was something new!

We got back in the country in August and before we knew it, Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I don’t remember anything about Thanksgiving Day, but I sure do remember the day after.  I was off on Friday and since Kansas City was only about 45 minutes away, we decided to drive into the city and go shopping.  It sounded like a great idea.  It probably was a great idea before we left for Germany in 1977, but things had changed.  It was a new normal but we were unaware of this phenomena.

We got up on Friday, ate and headed into the city.  Visions of good deals and the excitement of the Christmas season were dancing in our heads.  We picked our mall—there were several to choose from—and off we went.  As we drove down the highway and neared the exit and the mall, much to our surprise there was traffic everywhere.  The exit was jam packed and once we got into the parking lot, we realized it was stuffed to the gills.  We kept saying over and over again, “What in the world is going on?”

Well, I can’t remember if we gave up on that mall or not.  I don’t remember finding a parking spot, but I may have blocked it from my memory.  We tend to do that with nightmares!  Anyway, we headed to mall number two.  It was much larger, with a very, large parking lot and plus by now the initial rush was slowing down some.  After circling the area several times, we did manage to find a parking spot.  Hey, what if it was ten miles from the mall?  Smile.

We hiked to the mall and joined a sea of people as they weaved their way through the stores.  It was about that time we finally asked someone, “So what is the deal (no pun intended) with all the people?  Why is everyone here?”  It sounds almost humorous now, but we were sincerely in the dark.  The clerk looked at us like we had just returned from the moon or something and I guess in that instance, we had.  Apparently while we were in Germany this thing called “Black Friday” was either born or exploded.  We had walked into a feeding frenzy of holiday madness. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own.  Stores that opened at crazy hours were now opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.  People would storm the doors and fight for the right to get a good deal.  But.Not.This.Year.

This year it is going to be different.  Because of this year’s new normalcy, many stores that were open on Thanksgiving last year will be closed.  Employees who in year’s past had to work will now have time with their families.  In the recent weeks leading up to Black Friday, stores have been offering, promising, Black Friday pricing for weeks and not for a day.  That might just save someone’s life.  Perhaps Friday morning will look more humane and not so much like the Allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy.

I know it is hard to find good things in bad days but maybe, just maybe, if we look hard enough, we might find that parts of the new normalcy will be a better normalcy.  It seemed from the beginning that part of the COVID thing was a forced Sabbath. God tells us in His Word to rest in Him alone because all our hope should come from Him. It was like He said, “Enough is enough of this madness we call life. Slow down, already.”  And, we did…we have.  Maybe we will rediscover the blessings all around us. Maybe we will rediscover the wonder of a little Baby born in a feeding trough to save the world from the madness of sin.  Maybe we will rediscover the value of family, of others, of generosity, of love.  I hope so.

After my initial baptism into the fires of Black Friday I have not been much of a fan.  I’ve never stood in line at the door, I’ve never fought someone for a deal, and I’ve never got up at 2:00 am to go shopping. But I have rushed through the holidays like a bull running the streets of Spain.  Maybe this year I will slow down.  Maybe you will too.  Sound challenging?  It is.  But pressing the pause button is not a bad idea…especially if it causes us to rest next to our Dearest Daddy.  And especially if it causes me to realize…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel

How Thoughtful

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

It was a memorable Thanksgiving.  My wife Judy and I have a treasure chest full of good memories and stories.  That is one reason I like Grits so much.  It gives me the opportunity to remember and share just some of those treasures.  A lot of the memories and stories were written during our fourteen years at Cobden First Baptist.  During those years, we were slowly wedded into what can only be described as family.  Our children grew up there…and one, baby Sarah was born there.  We laughed together, we cried together and well, we did life together.

As our tenth anniversary approached, the church planned a big surprise.  They decided to raise the money for Judy and me to visit the Holy Land.  It was about a year later that the funds were in place, the plans were made, and the tickets bought.  We were to see Greece, Israel and Egypt.  We would visit many of the sites of ancient Greece, walk where Jesus walked and see where the Pharaohs lived and died. It was an incredible journey that we can never forget and there was something that happened after the trip that remains one of our most special memories.

You see, the way the trip was planned meant that we would be gone from our girls over Thanksgiving.  It was a hard call for us but once again the church made it easier.  One of the families agreed to move into our house while we were gone and ride herd over the three Taylor girls. So while we would miss Thanksgiving with them, they had Thanksgiving there with our good friends.  I can well remember Thanksgiving in Egypt.  Of course, there it was just another day. The only way you would have known it was Thanksgiving was that the American Embassy announced on the English-speaking channel that they would be closed that day.  We found it hard to believe that the rest of the world just went about their way as America celebrated the goodness of God.

Well, in a few days after that day, we were back home.  I remember we got back home at about 3:30 am and it was a Sunday.  We set the alarm and later I fumbled through some sort of message.  I am sure it was not one of my better ones but once the church was kind enough to act like it was.  Now for the surprise—now for a very special Thanksgiving memory.  Are you ready?  Well, we drove home after church, ready for a nap and wondering what we were going to eat for lunch.  We walked in the back door and into the kitchen and there, waiting for us, was a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  As we walked into the dining room we found the table set with our finest china…just like it would have been had we been there for Thanksgiving Day.

Can you feel it? Can you imagine it?  I know for us it was one of those memories that will burn in our hearts and minds till the last heartbeat.  And, as you can guess, it wasn’t just the meal, it wasn’t just the table—it was the thoughtfulness of it all.  And that is the big truth I want you to remember. While this particular memory was so generous and amazing…it was the thoughtfulness of it all that writes it on our hearts in permanent ink.  You see, we all can make that impact…rich or poor…because thoughtfulness doesn’t have to be expensive…at least not in the sense of dollar bills and coins.  Thoughtfulness is something that the poorest or richest can do.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” It’s special that he wrote that, but it is even more special when we realize this.  Not every memory of his time in Philippi was good…after all he got beat up and thrown in jail for doing nothing but helping a young girl. No…what caused him to write that was the thoughtfulness of his friends there.  More than once they were a friend when no one else would be.  I’ve pastored four churches in my forty-year pastoring journey and along the way we have met so many wonderful, thoughtful people. From Quarles…my first church, to Dorrisville, my present church, our hearts have been touched with thoughtful people.

This week, be sure and do what anyone can do but so many won’t remember to do…be thoughtful toward someone who needs a little lift, a little love, a little kindness. After all, our Dearest Father has been so thoughtful to us.  If you need a little guidance along the way, just remember that your thoughtful Father thought about that too. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Guarding the Flame

Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I watch it die every day. More than most guys I enjoy atmosphere…ambience matters…especially in my morning routine.  I have a home office and that is where I start my day every day when I am home.  The first thing I do is flood the office with light.  There is a switch on the wall that turns on the overhead lights and then I ask my friend Alexa to turn on “office” and she usually accommodates.  That turns on a light in one corner and a light on my desk.  Let there be light…and now there is. Check.

Next, I go over and put a K-cup in my Keurig and in just a minute or two I have a cup of coffee. Check.  Next to the coffee machine is a small table with a WoodWick candle on it.  It is one of those candles that crackles when you light it—sorta like when you pour milk on a bowl of Rice Krispies—snap, crackle, pop. I light the candle and settle into my chair where a remote control allows me to fire up my electric fireplace.  It is then, and only then, that I am ready to watch the weather and do my Jesus time. Check. Check. Check.

Well, sooner or later, I must leave, and I begin to undo what I did. Alexa is kind enough to turn off the lights and then I walk over to extinguish the candle.  There are two ways to do this, and I always choose what seems to be easiest.  I take the metal lid and plop it down on the jar and that is when it happens.  I watch the flame slowly die.  For the first few moments, the flame continues to burn but then it doesn’t. It grows weaker and smaller until it just dies.  Believe it or not, I always find it a bit sad because I know what is happening.  With the lid on, the flame slowly consumes the oxygen in the jar and when that is done…it is done. The flame cannot burn without oxygen and with the lid in place there soon isn’t any.

To me, each time it is a lesson about life.  We all know there are things where we need to live passionately, actively, and purposely.  They are things like hope, love, faith, and purpose.  When these are allowed to flourish there is a reason to get out of bed each morning and there is a reason to keep going.  Those big four are vital to us—to our lives.  If, and when, we allow those to starve in our lives, it is just a matter of time before life loses its zip, its purpose, its passion. It is just a matter of time before what once burned brightly is just a glowing ember of its former self or worse…just a warm wick.

How does that happen?  Well, I am sure there are multiple reasons, and they are different for each of us but so often somewhere there is a lid that plopped down on our life and just like the candle…the flame begins to die.  Soon, hope is replaced with despair, love is taken over with hurt and brokenness and fear quietly and effectively stills our faith and purpose, direction and drive fade away as we wonder why we even bother.  Familiar?  Too familiar? I know because there have been times when I have allowed the “lid of limits” to put out my flame.

Invariably, I have discovered but one way to keep the flame burning and that is a close and carefully guarded relationship with the One who made me.  The hope, love, and purpose that I find in life—driven by faith in Him—creates an environment that keeps the flame burning.  Even if you are wrestling with the whole God thing—I hope you will reconsider and ignite or reignite a relationship, a fellowship with Him.  Don’t settle for what culture says, what the guys at the office say…no, check Him out.  Begin by reading the most ancient and most trusted sacred writing there is—the Bible.  Try having a conversation with Him—it might be weird at first but so was your first conversation with your first boyfriend or girlfriend. All the oddness of it all is worth it if your flame once again begins to burn.

Each morning, I remove the lid and relight the candle and each day it responds with new life…new warmth…and a new dose of snap, crackle, pop.  Why not allow this Friend that I call my Dearest Daddy add light to your life?  Jesus said that He is the light of the world and anyone who chooses to follow Him will never walk in darkness.  It’s just His way of saying, “Trust me…I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Baby Sarah is Missing

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

A few days ago, we celebrated the birthday of our youngest daughter who is now 33 years old. It caused us to remember one of the scariest times in our lives.  As a pastor and family, Sunday has always been a crazy time for the Taylors and one of the busiest days of the week. And, when things get busy, and crazy, well something strange, and perhaps scary, is bound to happen.  And one day it did.  I was pastoring at Cobden First Baptist and had been there for seven or eight years.  When we arrived, we had two daughters and when we left, we had three. Our third daughter, who was affectionally called by many, Baby Sarah, came along in 1989.  Fast forward about four years.  Before I go any further, please know that the statute of limitations has expired for child neglect.

Judy and I always drove separately to church.  We had two morning services and since I was the preacher, I got to go to both of them. We had two great services and while it wasn’t unusual to do something with one of the families after church, that day we just went home.  Judy got home before I did and I showed up a little later.  We started decompressing and getting ready for lunch when someone asked, “Where’s Sarah?”  I looked at Judy and Judy looked at me. I thought she had Baby Sarah and she thought I had Baby Sarah.  It quickly became apparent that no one had Baby Sarah.  Crisis on steroids.

We jumped in our car and literally raced over to the church.  No Baby Sarah.  One of our best friends lived almost across the street from the church. Their daughter was Sarah’s best friend.  Maybe she was there.  It was locked up.  No Baby Sarah. Needless to say we were in a panic. Someone told us they thought that our friends had gone out to eat at a restaurant that was several miles out of town.  We thought maybe they had taken Baby Sarah with them and forgot to tell us.  That wasn’t the case.  We lived halfway up a steep hill and as we were in the front yard, trying not to panic, we saw a small figure running towards our house. Her long blonde hair was flying in the wind and she looked exhausted. It was Baby Sarah coming home.

So, here’s what happened.  Our friends had some new kittens.  Maggie, Baby Sarah’s best friend, asked her to come see the kittens.  So they went to Maggie’s house, across the street from the church to see the new arrivals.  Maggie’s parents, not knowing Baby Sarah was with Maggie, hollered for Maggie to come down so they could go out and eat.  Baby Sarah stayed put.  After a few minutes she realized she was all alone in the house.  She somehow managed to get their door unlocked and opened and she started towards our house which was about a mile away.  Now Cobden was a small town, but getting to our house from the church involved going over a railroad crossing and a pretty busy road.  Baby Sarah managed to navigate all of that and find her way home.  Remember, she was only four or so.

Back to the story.  When we got to her she was beet red from the heat and barefoot because she left her shoes at Maggie’s.  Her toes were bleeding from the rough pavement.  Amazingly, other than that, she was fine.  It was quite the reunion and we were so grateful to have her back.  We learned a very valuable lesson that day—count the kids when you leave the house for church and more importantly, count the kids when you head back home.  The bottom line? It was just one of those things that can happen if a couple of details are missed.  In this case one of the details was Baby Sarah.

So, besides counting your kids, what is to be learned from this scary tale?  Well, it is obvious but it isn’t.  The big question is, “How did Baby Sarah know how to get home?”  How did she know how to safely navigate the railroad tracks and the busy street?  The answer is this.  In the course of everyday life, we had driven, but more  importantly walked that path many times.  Time after time, hand in hand, she had walked with her mother and sisters so that when she had to do it alone…she could…she did.  That wasn’t our intended lesson but it was a very valuable lesson indeed.

Moms and dads and others who have a role in molding and shaping others—remember this—we are teaching whether we know it or not.  Our everyday routines are being imprinted on young hearts and minds.  And someday, when you least expect it, those imprints will become very, very important.  The Bible talks about training up a child in the way they should be so that when they are older they will know the way.  That was true for Baby Sarah that day in a practical way.  But trust me, it is true every day in ways that we may not see coming.

Because Baby Sarah was prepared that day to walk a path by herself, this story has a good ending.  It is one of our favorite stories though it still causes us to shudder.  I believe there is another reason why Baby Sarah made it home that day.  I believe our Dearest Daddy was watching over her.  And the truth is that no matter what or how the story ends, I’m learning that I can trust Him and rest in Him.  I’m learning that even in life’s scariest moments—like the ones we are living in right now—we can know that He’s got this.  Always has…always will. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Cruising with the Captain

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Psalm 23:1

Her name was Radiance of the Sea. Several years ago, I did something that I didn’t think I would ever do…take a cruise.  The thought of being on a boat, a ship, a vessel with several thousand people that I didn’t even know was anything but enticing. I could only imagine me threading my way through crowds of people with four words continuously coming from my mouth! Excuse me. Pardon me. No, from the safety of the shore it just didn’t sound like something I wanted to do.  And then, somehow, someway, we did it.  And then we did it again and now we did it again.

A week or so ago, we drove down to New Orleans and boarded the Radiance of the Sea.  As cruise ships go, she wasn’t the biggest, she wasn’t the newest.  Now that I think about it, though, she might have been like the bed in the story of the three bears…just right. If you have never cruised, let me share with you about our experience.  So, you buy your ticket, and you board the boat.  From the moment you step on, they attempt to make each person feel important, valuable.  They try to make sure your every need is met. It is like a small city that you call home for a few days or so.

The purpose of the ship is to take you and bring you back home.  That involves sailing over some deep waters—like, 8,500 feet deep. But even knowing that, you feel safe…every precaution has been made to keep you safe.  As every cruiser knows, it really is about the food. I mean three meals a day with snacks in-between and while it might not always taste like your momma’s cooking…it is pretty close. And the variety is incredible…allowing you to try new things…different things.  It makes it all interesting.  But there is more.

If you get sick, there is a doctor and several nurses. If you get bored, there is a cruise director who acts like he has had way too much coffee.  There are all kinds of venues, or places, to listen to all kinds of music.  That is one of our favorites.  Oh, and there is someone who comes in to make our bed and clean our room…not once like a hotel but several times each day. There are noisy places if that is your thing and there are quiet places if that is your thing.  And then, there are a couple of stops along the way for you to get off and see a new part of the world.

Now that is just a sampling, but I think you get the picture.  And guess what?  There is a captain up on the bridge (that’s what you call the place where they steer the boat) and he always knows where we are going and when we will get there. I don’t have to worry about a thing. Not.A.Thing. And that is why this whole experience, on a smaller scale, reminds me of my Father in heaven.  Every need met. Ever watching and caring. Ever leading us to…home.

One of the most beautiful songs in the Hebrew hymnbook is what we call the 23rd Psalm and the first verse, the first few words, describe the Great Captain’s care for us as we cruise here…and into eternity.  Are you ready?  Here is it.  “The Lord is my Shepherd…I shall not want.”  Don’t run past that.  When we become part of the family of God by faith in Jesus, God is our Captain and He takes responsibility for us.  Responsibility.For.Us.  We don’t need to worry, we don’t need to fret because He is in control and His storeroom of supplies never, never, runs out.  How about that?

So, why not just think about today, tomorrow and the next and then think about the fact that you don’t have to worry because the Captain of your life has everything under control.  Now to be fair and truthful, we did have one day that was rough due to some high winds.  But never, ever did we feel in danger.  And you will have some rough weather in life too, but you don’t have to worry because the Captain knows the way, knows the storm.  You can have meal, have a rest and lay your head down on your pillow knowing that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful

Gallery of Grace

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” 

Ephesians 2:10

I’m not much of an art fan but with that said, sometimes I am just amazed.  That amazement usually happens when I am watching one of several travel shows on PBS.  Invariably, wherever they are traveling they visit an art gallery.  And one thing is certain.  The art is as varied as the people who paint them.

To me it is hard to believe that Picasso and Rembrandt are both considered masters.  Both are held in high acclaim and yet they and their work are totally different.  Picasso’s later works, at least from this art critic, appear to have been drawn in a kindergarten classroom.  Amazingly he didn’t always paint this way.  In his early years he was a masterful realist in his work.  What happened?  I think he got bored and went artistically berserk.  And people now love it.  Notice that word “now” because “then” they didn’t. His masterpieces became masterpieces mostly after the master had died.

I frequently find myself thinking about how incredible it is that according to God…and because of God…you and I are a masterpiece…a true work of art.  In case you missed it, the scripture reference is Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.”  Isn’t that just an incredible thought that the God of the universe holds His children—you and me—in such high regard?

Now it is only because of God!  It certainly is not anything that we have done…not because of any of our own merit–it is just amazing grace. Sometimes people will say you are “a work of art” and you just know it isn’t exactly a compliment.  It is like much of Picasso’s work–not exactly a masterpiece—in my eyes anyway.  With apologies to his fans, I just can’t figure how he became famous for his work.  I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder but I’m just saying…

I know sometimes maybe our lives look more like a Picasso than a Rembrandt but just remember–often–beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in this case that is God.  When Jesus comes and gives us new life, we become this beautiful new creation.  The great part is that His opinion is the only one that matters.  It doesn’t matter what your spouse says, your kids say, or even what you say.  Nope, in Christ you are a masterpiece because God has declared you so.

One thing I know is that we must determine who we are going to listen to.  Will we listen to the worse critics of our life…those whose spiritual gift (they think) is demolition or the One who died for us?  Hmmmm….not too hard of a decision, is it? Why is all this so important? Because as we understand how God views us, we begin to live as the masterpiece we are.  We begin to live and understand that we are created in the image of Creator God, and He thinks very highly of us.

Not once has God ever taken a masterpiece off the wall of His gallery of grace and declared it unworthy or junk.  Never has, never will.  And the reason is simple.  We are who we are because of Whose we are.  We are what we are because He has made us so and He just doesn’t make mistakes.  So today, rest in the declaration of your Dearest Father that you, yes-you, warts and all, are a masterpiece.  Rest in the full assurance that even if your life looks like a Picasso, His grace can rearrange the squares and make you a Mona Lisa.  How? Because He’s got you and He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne