Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

Southern Cuisine – the Real Deal

He says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18b

I discovered the difference between the real deal and everything else.  My wife Judy and I traveled south to see family.  Since I am still working, she is usually our representative to our southern family.  She would make the circuit, sitting and talking and visiting, all of which is right up her alley.  But this time…things were different.  I decided it was time for me to make time to see family and I am so glad that I did.  I was reminded of the value of family and in the process rediscovered the value of good southern cooking. We stayed with two of my sisters and then with one of Judy’s nephew’s and his wife.  At each place, queens of southern delights strutted their stuff, but it all came together one beautiful Thursday evening.

First, in Valdosta where she is from and where a bunch of her family lives, there is a family of restaurants that are excellent for two reasons.  First, they are all buffets and second, they all specialize in southern cooking.  The buffet is a spread of everything southern…fried chicken, ribs (both fried and smoked), fish, pork chops, chicken gizzards and livers, pot roast and the list goes on and on.  Then comes the vegetables…field peas, lima beans, baby lima beans, black-eyed peas, collard and turnip greens, cream corn, grits and…well, you get the idea.  Judy and I enjoyed it so much we went twice.

Well, that was all good but then came Thursday night.  Her family decided to have a mini family reunion of sorts.  Now just like my family, her family is blessed with many queens of southern cuisine.  I admit I just couldn’t wait to taste what was going to be brought.  About thirty relatives showed up and each family brought several dishes. Now imagine with me.  Take the list above and double it and you have a fair idea of how much food was there.  Now, take what we had at the restaurant, which was really good, and give it a multiplication factor of at least two and maybe three and you begin to understand the Allen family feast.  It was beyond delicious—and not just a dish here or there but every dish.  I won’t even try to describe the deserts.  Wonderful southern food with a wonderful southern family and well, I sure was glad I didn’t miss it.

I did learn something through my southern food experience.  You see, I was very content with the restaurant version of southern heaven until I tasted the real deal and all of a sudden, I was reminded of the difference.  The real thing made in someone’s kitchen with loving hands and hearts made the restaurant version somewhat of a cheap imitation. Oh, it was good till I had the real thing and then there was no comparison. The real thing trumps anything else every time.

That truth is worth remembering.  There are a lot of imitations out there in the world and they will try and make you discontent with the real thing.  They will try and steal your heart out of a good marriage or make you discontent and leave relationships that have satisfied for years. Like so many of the commercials today, they wave their plastic happiness and try to convince you that their “something” is better.  Don’t believe it—the real deal is better than a plastic substitution no matter how good it looks.  And by the way, that is definitely true when it comes to religion and God.  Don’t ever be tempted to trade the practice of religion for a God who loves you so much He gave His Son to die for you. Like He said in His Book, “I am the Lord, there is no other.”

I am grateful for my trip south, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn once again about the importance of what is real and what is second place.  Never be satisfied with something else when you can have what is real and never trade what is first for what is second.  It is always a bad deal.

So, if you are blessed to have some southern relatives and you visit with them, make sure to sit-down with them for supper.  Chances are you will discover your own spread of southern delights.  And remember to be content and grateful for the spread that God has set before you.  He is a good, good Father and, unlike religion, He loves you so, so much and no matter what, you know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, wisdom

Bring on the Gravy

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

It can make good things better!  Thanksgiving is quickly disappearing in the rearview mirror.  Especially because of these crazy it was good to get together with family and rejoice and remember.  I know from this side of the fence the Taylor cooks are off the scale good.  Our menu, at least the one that list the side dishes, is almost set in stone.  Mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, strawberry pretzel salad and other salads (the kind that make you like salads), Apple pie…well you get the idea.  There is one thing that plays a minor role at our Thanksgiving table…gravy.

Now I am a Southern boy and gravy was a big part of my eating life.  Momma would regularly make both brown and white gravies for our supper and they were incredible.  I remember one time I was reminded that you can have too much of a good thing.  She had cooked a roast and one of the things I loved was to take two slices (one wouldn’t do) of bread and then smother, no drown, the bread in gravy.  Well, one time it got me.  I guess all the goodness in the gravy was too much and I got sick, real sick to my stomach.  It wasn’t pretty.

Momma also made a great giblet gravy at Thanksgiving.  She would take all those things that are tucked inside the turkey when you buy it, cut them up in tiny pieces and put them in her gravy.  Yup…it was incredible.  That’s when I began to learn the value of gravy.  It could take the driest dressing (not my Momma’s mind you) and make it the best dressing in the world.  It worked even better on leftovers.  You go back later that afternoon, fill your plate for round 2 of the feast, warm up the gravy and let her fly.  The dressing, the potatoes and the turkey all were reborn with a little gravy.

Gravy also can play the role of redeemer with biscuits.  Even the best biscuits are almost always made better with a little help.  It might be a smattering of butter or butter and honey or syrup and great becomes greater.  By far the greatness soul mate of a biscuit is a flood of good sausage gravy.  On my goodness—that combination is its own food group.  Any good restaurant that serves breakfast is always sure to include that in its offerings. The bottom line is that gravy makes things better.

I know something else that does the same thing—even more so.  That is grace.  Grace is when we choose to extend something good to someone they really don’t deserve.  It might be an act of kindness, a measure of forgiveness or a kind word or two. As a pastor I know people have extended a measure of grace when they commented on some of my sermons.  “Best sermon this year, preacher!”  Well, truth be known it wasn’t that good—they were just being graceful.

Now get this.  Just like a good gravy can make ordinary or less than extraordinary food taste incredible—grace can do the same thing.  Families are stronger, relationships are better, teams at work are more productive when grace gravy is poured all over them.  You know the circumstances of these last eighteen months have fractured relationships like crazy.  It is dividing families, friends and, yes, churches.  I think we need to pour some gravy—some grace—all over it.  If we don’t we are going to have some scars that time won’t heal.  If that happens and when this thing is all over, we might be able to heal it up but the scars will be forever visible.

If you are a Jesus follower then you should be a grace expert.  You know that God extended grace, His unmerited favor, to you and forgave all your failures, sins, and warts.  If you understand redemption right you know you didn’t deserve it—He just did it because of His love for broken people.  Grace makes the impossible possible.  Grace, like a good gravy, can redeem the worse and restore the driest.  God talks a whole lot about grace in His Book.  I encourage you to Google it and be amazed at grace—God’s grace.  It is so amazing they even wrote a song about.  Perhaps you’ve heard it—Amazing Grace.

Sometimes when I order at a restaurant I will order my gravy on the side. Let’s be honest—not every place can make good gravy.  But when it comes to God’s grace don’t ever get it on the side.  Just ask God to pour it on heavy—flood the plate of your life. The Book says that through faith in Jesus we have redemption through His death on the cross.  When we believe that, God forgives our sins through His grace which He lavishes on us.  Wow and bring on the gravy—bring on the grace. So if your life is like a dry biscuit take a break and ask God to pour on the grace.  And if you are overwhelmed because of life and it’s left you like so much dry turkey, ask God to pour on grace and you will soon be revived because…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Spilt Milk

I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

It gets real hot in North Florida.  When I write these stories I always try and remember things that happened in my youth that were either funny or difficult or both. Sometimes though they are just hilarious.  When I was about eight years old, my Momma and Daddy were always looking for ways to save a little money.  I didn’t know if we were rich or poor and I don’t suppose it mattered. Sometimes it was more obvious but most times it was just life.

I’m not sure how we got started but we began to buy our milk from a family that lived about a mile from where we lived.  It wasn’t really a dairy farm it was more like three or four cows. We would go over twice a week and buy a couple of gallons in big half-gallon glass jugs.  And let me tell you…this wasn’t the pasteurized stuff we drink today.  It was straight from the cow.  And one more thing, it was NOT 2%, or 1% or skim milk.  No sir, this stuff came fully loaded with milk fat.  It was good.  We had an old ice cream churn, the kind you had to crank and that milk made the best ice cream you ever tasted.  It was always a special day when we went and got milk.  And then one day it wasn’t.

We were still driving that old 1957 Plymouth and it was time to get milk.  I think Momma was driving and one of my sisters was in the front seat and the other in the back with me.  Those were the days before seat belts and rules about kids not sitting in the front seat.  In fact in those days the dashboard was made out of metal.  Anyway, we got to the home where they sold the milk. Momma paid the lady and I was supposed to carry the milk to the car and carefully put it on the floorboard in the backseat.  It was a good plan…almost.

The milk jugs had little handles on the top near the neck of the jug.  I picked up the jugs, one in each hand and headed to the car.  I put the jugs down on the ground and opened the back door.  Then I turned around and picked up one of the jugs and set it on the floorboard.  Then I turned around to get the second jug and put it next to the other.  You know, next is a nice word.  It means close too.  Well, I swung that ole jug through the door and well, you might say I got it just a little too close to the other one.  There was a sound of glass hitting glass and one of the jugs busted wide open and that nice fresh milk spilled all over the carpeted (remember that) floorboard.  Bummer.

Momma came over and of course was upset about the wasted milk.  I was too, but you know what they say, “There’s no use crying over spilt milk.” That is true but things were going to get worse before they got better.  I suppose we bought another half-gallon of milk and headed for the house.  Once there I did my best to clean up the spilt milk. The problem was first there was carpet and then, like they did back then, there was a thick pad underneath the carpet.  You could do what you wanted to, but there was no way all that milk was coming out of that carpet and pad.

Remember I told you that it gets real hot in North Florida.  Well, by the next morning there was a strange odor in the whole car and it just got worse and worse.  By the end of the first day the smell of sour milk made it just about impossible to sit in the car.  We already had the windows down because there was no air conditioning but even that didn’t stop the odor.  It made it better but when Momma or Daddy hit a stop light, Katie bar the door…it stunk. So for days and days our 1957 Plymouth smelled horrible. I’m pretty sure I was not winning any popularity contests for about the next two weeks. That smell lasted a long after the accident…oh boy did we hate it.

Have you ever broken a jug of milk in your car before?  Well, probably not, but let me ask you this.  “Have you ever done something wrong, something that hurt someone, something that broke someone’s heart?”  You probably know that is really what this story is about.  You see when we get all fired up and make some bad choices with big regrets it doesn’t just go away…oh not…it lingers and lingers and lingers.  And you know and I know sometimes the scar just stays forever.  I know we shouldn’t cry over spilt milk but maybe we should shed a few tears over broken hearts, hearts that we have broken.

I sure wish I had been more careful that day.  I know I was just a kid but I was old enough to be careful.  My careless behavior caused a big stink and it was a stink we all had to endure.  I think we should be more careful with our actions and our words each day.  If we would it might save a few hearts and a few big stinks.  The Bible says that we will have to give an account for every word and every action that we say or do.  Do you know what?  If I would have asked, my big sister would have helped me that day…so would Momma but I thought I could handle it.  We think that way in life too.  Why not ask for a little help from your Heavenly Father before the milk gets spilt?  He is always ready to help you carry your milk. Two things are certain…you can count on Him and always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Three Days, Day Three

Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards—for our vineyards are in bloom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

It seems that God has a sense of humor after all.  Day two was a bust.  As bad as I wanted and needed everything to go right…it went wrong.  Mornings are my most productive time and it quickly became obvious that Monday morning and afternoon were not going to be productive…except to fuel and feed my frustration.  None of the circumstances were life threatening, nor were they going to matter in eternity, and they weren’t going to change the world. However, they had left me wondering what was God up to.  I just missed the part that He had enrolled me in the school of faith.

Tuesday, day three of “Three Days” began better—not because anything had changed but maybe, just maybe I had.  I got up and prepared the usual way.  Coffee, check. God time, check. Breakfast, check. Before I knew it, it was time to head to the office and see what God had in mind.  Something told me it might be different. When I arrived at the office, made a cup of coffee—first priority—and restarted my Apple computer for what seemed like the twentieth time.  Hmmm. It seemed to be happier so naturally I was happier but happier doesn’t mean the problem was gone.  I still had to do the one thing that started this fiasco—updating the church digital sign. I decided to try something different.

About two months ago, I had installed the software that was supposed to talk to the sign on another computer but no matter what I did, it simply wouldn’t talk to the sign. I called the expert and no matter what he did it still wouldn’t talk to the sign.  We gave up and I turned it off…until that morning…the morning of day three.  Well, figuring I had nothing to lose, I turned the PC on, opened the sign talking software and guess what? They started talking.  Like two old friends they started chatting like nothing was ever wrong. And just like that the thing that I had worried and fretted over was in the rearview mirror.  Just like that the one thing that I really needed to do was, wait for it, possible.  I really couldn’t believe it.  There was no explanation but one.  God not only heals bodies and creates universes—He works on computers.

I hope you are smiling right now because when all this happened I was.  I wrote the computer expert guy and told him the problem was solved and I thought it was a miracle.  He agreed.  So the bottom line is God proved that He is concerned about the little things that cause frustration and stress. He also proved that even when we are wondering what “He did to us,” He quietly and mysteriously works for us. So the rest of the first part of day three I merrily pressed the keys and fed data to the church sign for all of December and January.  Yay.  It turns out that people won’t be wondering why the church sign is still wishing them a Happy Thanksgiving.

I am glad that God granted me these three days…even day two…the less than trophy day.  That frustrating day set me up to appreciate the miracle day.  God used my frustration from day two to fertilize and grow the wonder of day three. In frustration on day two I said, “God why did you do this to me?”  At the end of day three I was saying in gratitude, “God, why did you do this for me!” because I am sure I didn’t deserve it. I hope this made sense to you because it was pretty cool.  I learned once again that God is God and I am not and that He is good all the time and if I am willing to trust and wait, He is willing to see me through.

So, that is the story of the three days…three days that I am sure all of us at one time or another have both enjoyed and endured. It is a story of how it doesn’t always take a major disaster to derail us on the tracks of life.  Sometimes, too often, it is just the little things gone south.  Sometimes the little things are more difficult to manage that the monsters that ravage us.  It reminds me of one of those good verses in the Old Testament.  It says, remember, it isn’t the elephants but the little foxes that spoil the vines and the harvest. I’m just glad that He is a patient loving Father who doesn’t grow weary with my groans or my whines.  No, instead the Whisperer whispers, “It’s ok child, don’t worry, big or small, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

Three Days Day Two

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24”

I never saw it coming. Day one of “Three Days” was so awesome you would think that the day following a trophy day would be at least somewhat awesome, right?  Let me tell you that is not always the case.  If you read, “Three Days, Day One” you know that I my day job is being a pastor and one day recently, I and the church, had a “trophy Sunday.”  Now I need to be honest and let you know that not every Sunday qualifies as a “trophy Sunday.”  In fact, some of them can be pretty difficult but that’s not a deal because it just the way life is.  “Less than days” have nothing to do with where you work or what you do—it has to do with life.  Like I said in day one, when you have a really good day, put it on your trophy shelf so you can easily find it when you need a reminder that you are blessed.

Well, you know that Mondays always follow Sundays.  It is no accident that Mondays get a bad rap.  It just seems that if you are going to have a challenging day, Mondays get the call and in my case, that is exactly what happened.  So after the trophy day at church on Sunday, I bounded (slight overstatement there) out of bed about 4:10 am, ready to embrace the day.  Because it was Thanksgiving Week and because my wife Judy and I were taking a trip down south to see family, I only had two days in the office that week.  I expected and needed some productive time.  There were several things that just had to get done before I left but I was confident that I could get it done.  So, like a horse in the starting gate, I raced to the office…early.

When I got to the office, for fortification, I made a cup of coffee and then hit the spacebar on my computer and immediately noticed that it was a little slow to wake up. “Hmmm,” I said, wondering what was up with that. It did eventually start responding but things were just not right.  One of the things I had to get done was to update the electronic sign for our church.  To do that my Apple computer needed to talk to the sign which— speaks Windows—think EngIish and German. I have a program on my computer that is supposed to act like a translator but it was on strike. From there things just went downhill.  Not only was the Apple computer not speaking to the Windows sign, everything, and I mean everything,  just came to standstill.  No matter what I did, no matter how many times I restarted the computer, nothing helped. I watched the clock as my precious day slipped away through my idle hands.

Now, I believe in God.  I believe that God directs my day and my path.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “The steps of a good (good as in God’s goodness) are directed by the Lord and it is He who directs His path.”  I know it and I believe it though my faith that particular day was sagging.  In fact, I left the office that day feeling just a little put off with God.  I mean didn’t He know I had to get this stuff done?  Didn’t He know I only had a little time to get a lot done?  Well, I finally just said to Him, “God why are you doing this to me.” I was frustrated and maybe, just maybe a little angry…if not at God at least the circumstances.  Looking back, I realized that I was having a little case of “spiritual amnesia.”

Spiritual amnesia?  Yup…it’s a real deal and I really had it.  You see, I had already forgotten the “trophy Sunday” and even forgot to revisit it to remind me of God being a good God.  I had forgotten that I believe that God directs and plans my day…meaning He had planned that day as an exercise of faith and trust…in Him.  I forgot it all and that was not fair to Him, my wife, Judy, who bore some of the brunt of my frustration and anybody else who happened to be close enough to feel and hear my frustration.  Are you getting the picture that Monday was not a “trophy day?” Ever had a day like that?  Trust me, I get it and I understand and so does our Dearest Daddy.

Well, that night, I sat down at my happy home computer and worked and watched how that same God that I had grumbled about multiplied my time and efforts and much of what I needed to get done, got done in just a couple of hours.  It was then that my “spiritual amnesia” fog began to clear.  It was then that I remembered that God doesn’t do things to people…He does things for people.  You see that non-trophy day was about learning—-I was in “God school” and He was teaching me things like faith, trust and patience.  I also remembered the rest of that favorite verse.  It says that even if I should stumble and fall, I will not stay down because He, God, will pick me up.  I may fall in the mud puddle of frustration but He loves me too much to leave me there.

So the day ended better than it started.  I went to bed that night with a feeling that no matter what tomorrow held, I would do what I could do and just leave the rest to Him.  I got out of bed, had my coffee and had a little talk with Him and He whispered to me that He would be with me that day and that no matter what He would not abandon me.  I knew that somehow the third day of “Three Days” was going to be ok and that what I write each day is indeed true, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Three Days, Day 1

For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

They say that God works in mysterious ways.  Last week God showed up in three very different ways on three very different days.  Now if you aren’t a God follower you might write this off as chance and circumstance, but my life and faith journeys won’t let me do that.  Regardless, sit back and enjoy the story.

If you are a Grits reader you know that my day job is leading a church.  I am the senior pastor (by position and by age) at a local church so God plays a big part of my walkabout life—both at church and otherwise.  Well, it all started on Sunday.  It was a special day because we had a guest visiting our church who works in another part of the world.  She is a good friend of ours and our church.  We have visited her and served with her several times in another country. She shared about her work at a brunch we held and also some in our services. And it was so good.

Our worship services consist of two big parts—the music part and the Word part.  The Word part is when I get to share with the folks both in the room, on the radio, Facebook Live, and YouTube.  I love it…when it goes right. Smile.  Well, this particular day, the music part was just awesome, and the sermon came together in a way that only God could orchestrate.  He was good.

We also gathered our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  If that doesn’t ring a bell just google it and you will discover one of the most purposeful things you can do to help kids and share the Good News of Jesus. Basically, you fill a shoebox with kid’s stuff, pray for that special child and then drop it off at a collection point.  Samaritan’s Purse will ship the box (about 12 million of them) around the world with the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus and making some child’s day.  It is awesome.  Well, that day we collected our boxes, all 519 of them, and the climax was our kids marching in carrying a bunch of filled boxes.  It was very good.

So, when I was giving some closing comments at the end of the service, I told the folks that this was a “trophy Sunday.” What I meant was that it was the kind of day that you put in the special part of your brain where you put memories that you don’t want to forget.  Just like a trophy reminds you of a special event, so that day was one we should keep safe because one day, someday, you just might need to be reminded that God is indeed good.

You see, not every day is a trophy day.  Not every day is going to be cloudless and sunny. There are going to be days that make you wonder “what in the world was God thinking?”  It may be one of those days when you think “how could a good God ever allow something like this happen?”  It may be one of those days that rub you wrong…like a cheap, scratchy wool sweater.  We all have them, don’t we?  When one rolls around, you simply go to your trophy shelf and remember that God is good and even that is bigger than it sounds.  You see God doesn’t just do good…He is good.  And that is true even when our world goes south.  And sometimes it will.

The biggest trophy on my trophy shelf is a bloodied, Roman cross.  It is where Jesus died a sacrificial death…not for His benefit but for ours.  His death that day paid the price for the sin, the messes, the brokenness of an entire world.  And God said if we would believe what He did and choose to follow Him, we could have His love on our trophy shelf forever.  I know in today’s world that sounds hokey but trust me, it is anything but.  Go ahead check it out, check Him out.  It is a trophy worth having. One of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16. It simply says that God loved the lot of us—all of us—so much He allowed His only Son to die so that anyone who believed in Him, could live forever.  Like I said, check it out.  Hey, and watch Grits for the next couple of days for parts two and three of “Three Days.” It is a story that gives weight to the fact that, “He’s got this.” See you then. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving, Trials

Leftovers

No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

One of the best things about Thanksgiving doesn’t happen on Thanksgiving.  Well, let’s be honest, for most of us blessed enough to live here in America it is a day to throw the diet out the window, to loosen the belt a notch, to forget trying to bend over.  It is the day after the feast. I know for the Taylor tribe we have perfected the feast to a fine art.  Each year there are certain items that just must be on the table.  There is the most incredible mac-n-cheese in the world, a sweet potato soufflé, oh, and strawberry pretzel salad. And that is the short list.  There is also green bean casserole, rolls, some sort of salad and, well, you get the idea.  Even a sampling of the feast will cause your belt to shrink a notch or two.  Thanksgiving food…you gotta love it.

But here is the best part.  Eventually, probably hours but maybe the next day, there will be a hint of hunger.  As full as you feel after the feast, you will get hungry again and that’s when it happens.  You can go to the refrigerator and start unloading the leftovers. All that joy from the Thanksgiving feast is reborn right before your eyes.  And the amazing part is that some of the dishes taste even better than the first time.  A couple of minutes in the microwave will have you smiling just like the day before.  And the hits just keep on coming because some, not all mind you, but some will make it for day two.

And then there is the turkey.  Mr. Turkey must be related to the cat because it seems to have nine or more lives.  After the initial onslaught of Thanksgiving and the day after, there always seems to be more turkey. What should we do?  Well, some might be given a quick trip to the freezer, but some will be reborn in a myriad of creative and tasty recipes.  Who knows the multitude of ways Mr. Turkey can be reborn in the days following Thanksgiving?  You see, in some ways, Thanksgiving is the holiday that just keeps on giving.  Just ask your waistline.

I realize that some folks aren’t fans of leftovers.  I knew one guy who simply refused to eat them and of course that is every person’s choice. But as for me, I say bring them on.  Whether it is a Thanksgiving feast or a leftover burger from some fast-food place, it is all waiting for a second chance to satisfy that hunger pain.  Now to be fair, sometimes those leftovers are better left alone.  What might have been a crunchy delight one day can be a soggy mess the next, so you must choose your leftovers carefully.  Sometimes, it’s better to let that tasty dish go on the first go around.

Do you suppose that is true in life too?  You know, our choices and actions can be like those leftovers.  Some choices are worth savoring for days, weeks, and months or maybe even a lifetime.  Trusting Jesus…now that was a good decision that will last forever.  Marrying my wife Judy…check.  Forty-five years later and I’m still humming, “We’ve Only Just Begun.”  Having kids? That’s a good one too though there have been times in their teen years when I pondered checking the return policy.  The truth is all of us, if we look, will discover there are some great leftovers that spill joy into our lives every day.

Truthfully, and painfully, there are some leftovers that still cause our hearts to hurt.  A broken relationship left unattended, a harsh word spoken and left hanging without an apology, poor health decisions…yes, there are painful leftovers in every person’s life. While we can’t just make them disappear like fog burning off in the morning, we can do what we can do and that is to seek and receive forgiveness.  First, let it start with God.  Let Him know how you regret and repent or turn from whatever it was.  Then, if an apology is due, give it.  Even if the person is no longer around, you can apologize.  Maybe write a letter and then burn it.  And lastly, we need to forgive ourselves and that, by the way, might be the most difficult thing to do.  And then, take the sad leftovers and take them to the trash…where they belong.

I love what Paul the Bible writer said.  He said we should forget the past and look forward.  He wasn’t saying we should forget because that probably isn’t possible.  He was saying we should not allow a past that is forgiven to own us in the present.  He was saying we need to get rid of those old, rotten leftovers and that is something we can do. So, savor the good and ditch the regretful. Sound difficult? That’s ok because there is a Dearest Father who will help you.  In fact, listen carefully, even now He is whispering, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, wisdom

Thanks-Giving Living

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

Everything seemed bigger then.  I liked being a kid.  I know there were times I didn’t, but overall things were pretty cool.  For one thing, there were few responsibilities.  There was always someone bigger and more important than me to handle things.  I didn’t worry about where the food came from, who was going to pay the electric bill or what would happen if the wrong person got elected and lived in something called the White House.  My house happened to be white, so my world centered around that white house. Of course, there were only three channels to tell me about the world outside my small world so, yeah, l liked being a kid.

When I was a kid, the holidays were just a big thing and the two at the top of the list were Thanksgiving and Christmas. These were the mammoths of all holidays.  Thanksgiving, of course, came first and was like the kickoff for the Christmas season. Thanksgiving meant that it was ok to start doing Christmas stuff.  Now days that has been assigned to the Fourth of July. Smile.  But anyway, these two special days shared two things that made them special.  They were all about family and they were all about food. Family and food.  They were big then and they are big now.

Of course, big was relative…not relative like my grandmother or my Uncle Hardy…but relative in the sense of perspective.  You see, as a kid, everything was bigger.  A while back I went back to where I was raised. The house, though slightly remodeled, was still there and about the same.  But when I saw it that day, I remember thinking how small it seemed.  I mean it was never big, but it certainly seemed bigger.  The difference wasn’t the house but how I saw it.  Enter Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was so exciting because it meant that anyone who was related to the Taylor tribe was going to be somewhere together.  Most often it was home…the white house on the corner of Carlton and Wheat. It was a big deal because we had quite a big tribe.  Momma and Daddy had eight kids and they probably would have had more but I think they finally figured out what was causing it.  And everyone came home.

And then…there was the food.  Momma would cook the biggest turkey we could find…usually right around twenty-five pounds.  There would be dressing, plain and oyster, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, ambrosia, and a bunch of other stuff.  There would be several kinds of pies including the infamous “minced meat pie.”  Best I could tell that was a pie for the adults because I think it really had meat and only an adult could like that.  Then after the vast spread was spread, we would all gather around the kitchen (we wouldn’t fit around the table) and someone would pray…usually my oldest brother because he was a lay preacher.  And then…we would eat…a lot.

From my kid perspective it was good, and it was fun.  I probably didn’t think much about what giving thanks was all about.  I mean, my big brother talked about being thankful when he was talking to God in the prayer, but really, I probably didn’t get the whole thanksgiving thing…then.  But now, well, I certainly understand it more.  As I grew up and some of that responsibility that my parents bore fell on me, I began to understand.  When I started to realize that things I took for granted didn’t just happen, that they took hard work and a lot of love, well, I started feeling grateful.  The more I understood, the more I appreciated all that my Momma and Daddy did for me as a kid.  They worried so I didn’t have to. They provided so I could have food to eat, a place to sleep, clothes to wear and a life that was…fun.

So, this week, I’m going to remember and be thankful.  I’m going to do my best not to grumble about what I don’t have and choose to be grateful for what I do. Somewhere this week I will play the role of my big brother and pray, and I will thank God for all the blessings He has given to me and my family.  This week I will celebrate that there is food to eat and family to enjoy…just like when I was a kid.  God is good…always has been, always will be.  Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament Bible said, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I think he was telling us to be sure and celebrate Thanksgiving, not one day, but every day.  Oh, and when you are thanking God for being God be sure and thank Him because, each day and every day, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Sports Card Heaven

I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.” Proverbs 8:17

Well, it sure wasn’t my thing.  Each November we take a short vacation with the Guest tribe.  Their tribe consists of my oldest daughter, Becca, her husband, Jonathan and three of my grandchildren, Faith, Hope, and Ethan.  It’s usually a three- or four-day trip to the Smoky Mountains but this year the tour guide, Becca, decided we would go to Branson, Missouri.  So, over the river and through the woods we went, and we all ended up in that Southwest Missouri vacation mecca.

The first day we went shopping before heading to the Sights and Sounds theater to see a production on the life of Jesus—more on that in another Grits. Shopping just isn’t my thing.  We got to the outdoor mall and the boys went one way and the girls went another.  I figured my chances were better with the guys.  I mean whatever they wanted to look at had to beat girl stuff.  Well, Jonathan and Ethan eat, sleep and breathe sports so naturally our shopping selections curved in that direction.  The first stop was a shop that specialized in hats and shirts for the various team sports.  We poked around for a while, liking this one and trashing another one—you know, the right team, wrong team thing.  Soon, it was time to move on.

So down the mall a way, there was another sports shop called, “On the Ball Sports.” This store sold a good variety of sports memorabilia.  It’s funny…neither store sold the tools of the trade but rather things that indicated what team or player you liked.  We entered “sports heaven” and it was soon apparent that this was not going to be a short visit.  We were there for the long haul, and it wasn’t what you might think that held us there.  It wasn’t jerseys or hats; it wasn’t pictures or mugs—it was sports cards. I’m not even sure of the official name but they had guys, or mostly guys, pictures on them and described who and when they played.

It turned out that I discovered my grandson Ethan was totally into sports cards.  This store had a very large selection and the young man working there was helpful and friendly.  We looked and looked and then we looked some more.  I discovered there might be, oh, a zillion cards for each player and based on their popularity and condition, they could be quite valuable.  The most expensive card we saw was worth $850 dollars.  I’m not sure why.  I asked a lot of questions and got lots of answers but quickly determined I should stay with my day job and try some other investments.

Well, two days later, ok, that is an exaggeration, about an hour and a half later, we walked out of the store.  While I had to take a couple of breaks from “card heaven” I did manage to stay there even though the Bass Pro Shop was next door.  You might ask, “Dewayne, why didn’t you just go next door.  Why did you stay in the card shop for so long if it wasn’t your thing?”  Well, the answer really is quite simple.  While it wasn’t my thing…it was my grandson’s thing, and I learned a long time ago that we should learn to love the things that those we love… love.  Did you track with that?

Well, it goes like this.  If you don’t like to shop but your wife does, you learn to love shopping.  And, on the other hand, ma’am if your husband loves to fish, you might want to give it a try. And here is the great part.  When you do that, you are showing love.  The whole tribe made jokes about my stint in “card heaven” for the rest of the trip.  It was fun and it kept the memory alive.  Into the days, weeks, and months, I’m sure we will occasionally remember our time together in “card heaven.”  Oh, and guess what Ethan is getting for Christmas.  I promise you it is something he loves.

What is true in our human world is also true in our spiritual world.  If you happen to be a Jesus follower, one of the surest ways to a close and personal relationship with Him is to learn to love the things that He loves.  And the amazing thing is the things He loves always makes life better and they never carry any regrets or consequences.  It is like following a guide who always knows the best fishing holes, the best golf courses, or the best places to hike.  It is always…good.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys to ever live, wrote about God. Writing for God, he said, “I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.” Just like the time I spent leaning over the counter with my grandson, it is valuable to spend time with Him, leaning at the counter of life, asking questions, learning, and loving what He loves.  Yup, it is always…good.  And why not take it a step further and just believe and trust…even if you don’t understand, that, “He’s got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Not Over Yet

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

One day, Siri gave me the bad news.  I am a pastor. I’m not sure what you do on Saturday nights, but I know what is on my schedule.  Forever, well almost forever, my Saturday nights have been reserved for doing the final studying for the message I am to deliver the next morning.  My wife and I don’t generally accept engagements on that special night because, well, Sunday’s message is a big priority.  Now, there is one kinda, sorta, exception.  Notre Dame football.

I am not sure how it all started, but a long time ago I became a Notre Dame football fan. It really is the only thing in the sports world that I consistently follow.  I’m not a huge sports fan, however, college football and Notre Dame football, rank pretty high with me.  If I know there is a Notre Dame game scheduled for Saturday night I will try and study earlier in the day to free up some time to watch the game that night.  Well, a year ago, on a Saturday night in November, despite all my good intentions, that just didn’t happen.  That meant that the Irish would have to play largely without me.  Now what made that particularly difficult was the Irish, ranked number four in the nation, was playing Clemson who was ranked number one.  It was going to be a good game.

So, what is a pastor/Notre Dame fan supposed to do?  Well, I watched bits and pieces of the game and occasionally would ask Siri on my Apple watch what the score was.  The Irish started off strong with a touchdown and by halftime had a pretty comfortable lead.  I was ecstatic.  I tuned in and out for most of the evening.  I checked in somewhere and the lead had shrunk to four points.  I figured I best not check in anymore or else the crowd at church was going to get a half-baked sermon.  So, I studied, and wrote and wrote and studied.  Finally, about 9:45 pm or so I couldn’t resist the urge any longer.  I asked Siri, “Hey Siri, what’s the score in the Notre Dame football game?”  Her response was discouraging. No, it was devastating.

In her chirpy, Siri voice, totally indifferent to the pain she was about to cause, she said, “Notre Dame is losing to Clemson by a score of 26 to 33 with two minutes remaining.”  What?  I was studying about joy and mine plummeted like a roller coaster on a greased track.  I muttered under my breath (never mind what I muttered) and studied a bit more before calling it quits.  I went to bed.  Notre Dame hadn’t lost a home game in forever and tonight that streak was going to end.  Bummer.

The next morning, after some coffee, I picked up the sermon to give it the final look over.  After a while, I went over to the computer to look something up and my email app was open.  I took a moment to scan the list of emails that had come over night.  Halfway down the list my glaze came to a screeching halt.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I get a regular email from a company that sells sports stuff.  I especially like their fan gear like Notre Dame hoodies.  If the Irish win, they will send out an email that declares their victory and then offer a special discount to celebrate.  And…there it was.

The brief summary in the email said it all, “Irish Beat Clemson.” Whoa…what?  As fast as a rabbit running from a bobcat, I opened the email and saw that the Irish had indeed beat Clemson in a double overtime thriller by a score of 47 to 40.  Fortunately, my Hopper thing from Dish records primetime and it had recorded the game.  As fast as I could I turned on the television, went to the DVR and clicked the button and there was the game in all its glory.  I cheated and watched the final two minutes but saved the rest for later. I got to watch the thriller ending after all…and it was incredible.  Go Irish.  Baptist or not—I love Notre Dame football.

Here is the amazing part.  I went to bed Saturday night assuming that my team had lost. Down seven with two minutes to play—no way.  But I should have known better because the Irish are famous for thrilling finishes but most of them don’t involve the number one team who had a 37-game winning streak…the reigning national champs.  Yup, I went to bed a loser and woke up a winner.  You just never know what is going to happen. It is true with Notre Dame football, but better yet it is true in life—especially when God is the head coach.

Life can be difficult…especially these days.  We have never seen so many uncertainties from so many directions and all at the same time.  It is easy to think that we’ve lost the game.  It is easy to go to bed thinking all is lost, game over.  But God has an amazing way of turning it all around.  An old quote says, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Well, I don’t know who this lady is and you shouldn’t call people fat anyway, but let me tell—with God in the mix she isn’t even humming her first bar of music.  I’m trying to say, don’t give up…don’t be discouraged. You, or it, may seem like a lost cause but never, never is that true with God on your side.

I’ve heard some people say they like to read the end of a book first to see how things turn out.  Well, I have read the end of His Book—and He wins in the end.  Job, who knew all about hot mess circumstances said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”  Wow. You see, as I watched my recorded version of the game—even knowing the outcome—I winced at some missteps and cheered for every score.  And the best part—I rested knowing that nothing I was about to see could change that outcome.  The Irish were going to win.  If you are a Jesus follower, no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how it seems God can’t pull it out—just rest in knowing He can. Nothing can change His planned outcome in this game called life.  With Jesus you can rest assured, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne