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

Salty Watermelon and Sweet Grits

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” Romans 12:4-5

It just doesn’t make any sense.  I am from the South and we know how to do food.  There are two foods that are mainstays.  They are grits and watermelon.  From my perspective you don’t mess with Texas and you don’t mess with grits and you don’t mess with watermelon.  Yet, there it is as plain as day.  And, for goodness sake, it is in my family.

My wife Judy, has long been a fan of watermelon.  I mean she isn’t friends with watermelon, she loves it.  And just like me, she loves a sweet watermelon.  When we were growing up, watermelons were just about the size of a small blimp, weighing up to 30 and 40 pounds.  Most of them were as sweet as sugar water.  There was not a question if a melon was going to be sweet, it was just a matter of how sweet it was going to be!  Those were the days.

However, somewhere along the way watermelons changed.  Most of them are now the size of basketballs and weigh-in at a feather weight of 12-15 pounds.  And it seems the only way to get a sweet watermelon is to inject it with sugar water.  Perhaps that might be the reason Judy has gotten confused about how to make a melon taste sweeter.  Someone has cast an evil spell upon her.  For many years now, she has been convinced that putting salt—that’s right salt—on watermelon somehow makes it sweeter.  What?  Listen, I’ve tried this, and the only thing salt does to watermelon is make it salty.

I’ve tried to remove this evil spell but to no avail.  And she even uses it against me.  She will sometimes cut up a watermelon and then sprinkle…or dump…salt all over it.  She knows then that the melon is all hers.  It is a devious plan indeed.  But that is what happens when you mess with melons.

Now the second problem is as bad.  Everyone knows that grits are not cream of wheat and not oatmeal …so you do not…and I repeat DO NOT…put sugar on grits.  It is a travesty of justice and some would say very close to a sin.  If God had wanted grits to be sweet, He would have made them that way.  I have a very good friend who has been mesmerized with a spell and he is convinced that sugar goes on grits.  It is a sad tale indeed.  And the crazy part is, he is wonderful cook.  I think it just goes to show that even the best cooks can be deceived.

You might ask, “Well, what goes on grits?”  That would be salt, pepper, and butter and lots of all three.  A good bowl of grits should slide down your throat like shoes on melting ice, raise your blood pressure by 10 points, and have a nice pepper burn.  But they should not be sweet…ever…never.  Now there are other acceptable variations such as cheese (oh, yes) bacon bits (I can taste it now!) and of course shrimp.  If you have never had cheese grits or shrimp and grits, you need to repent right away and go try it.  You won’t regret it. It is as fine as frog hair…and that is pretty fine.

Now I have learned (actually, I am still learning) that someone can believe that you need to put salt on watermelon and sugar on grits and still be your friend.  That becomes really important if you happen to be married to them.  You see, we need to learn that we don’t need to agree on everything.  If we would practice that, the world would be a better place for sure.  Now, not that I have ever had this problem, but sometimes people tend to get a little stubborn.  We tend to think that there is only one way and that is our way.  You know, kinda like when you think you don’t put salt on watermelon or, gulp, sugar on grits.  Oops, I think I just shot myself in the foot.  I knew if I wrote long enough it would happen.

The Book tell us, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” In other words, it is ok if Judy likes salt on her watermelon, as long as she keeps the salt on her side of the plate.  And my friend who likes sugar on his grits may need to go to rehab, but he can still be my friend.  Let’s not make mountains out of molehills, especially in these difficult days.

I’m probably gonna have to try this salt and sugar thing at least one more time.  If nothing else it will show that I am trying to understand. That’s what Jesus would want me to do and that’s what He does for me.  When I come up with some strange combinations in life, well, He just smiles and tries to show me the right way.  He keeps me from doing something too crazy…like eating chili and eggs.  It’s good to know that if I do, He’s got that too.

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

Food Fix

Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

What do you mean food doesn’t fix everything?  Well, I don’t know if it is because I am from the South or because I am a Baptist but I just know food makes everything better.  There is nothing like a healthy (uh, perhaps unhealthy) dose of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, well seasoned {hog jowl or some other appropriate grease source} green beans, and a large portion of bread) to make everything better. And, of course, don’t forget dessert.

The other evening I came home from a rather difficult meeting.  I walked in the door and my wife Judy, who can read me like a book, instantly said, “do you need to self-medicate?”  I love her…she knows.  Off to the Dairy Barn we went and in just a few minutes I was feeling better thanks to a salted-caramel concrete.  Yup, the saying used to be “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”  Now it is, “eat two chocolate cookies with a glass of cold milk and call me in the morning.”  Oh the joy.

We have this rose bush in our incredibly beautiful yard—which by the way is also due to Judy and her green thumb.  This rose bush is on an arbor by our back door which used to be a great spot.  It bloomed and as you walked through the arbor you were immersed in their sweet, lush smell.  It was good.  But over time the bush has grown not as healthy and doesn’t bloom nearly as much.

Judy and I were sitting in the yard yesterday morning and she made the comment that the rose bush had a single bloom.  So I casually mentioned that maybe she should feed it.  Remember, that fixes everything.  A good shot of rose bush food and bam here come the blooms.  But she told me I was wrong.  The problem wasn’t that the rose bush was starving for food—it was starving for light.  Here’s what has happened.

Just to the east of the rose bush where the morning sun comes in, two trees have grown—a dogwood and a redbud.  Both are great trees and they seem to be real happy.  But in the process of growing they have shut off a lot of the morning sunshine from the rose bush and it is suffering.  Judy said that the rose bush can survive the way it is but without enough sunlight it won’t and can’t bloom.  What we end up with is a rose bush that is just getting by and that will never really be what it was intended to be—a source of beauty with the sweet aroma of a new day.

So, somewhere in the future there is a good chance that the rose bush will probably have to be moved to a place where it can thrive and that means more sun.  It will be a dramatic change and it might even be difficult but unless we do something the rose will never be and do what it was meant to be and do.  Hmmmm.

I wonder if that is the problem with me—with you.  I wonder if we are growing in a place where the soil might be right but there just isn’t enough light.  I wonder if we need more Sonshine.  You see, we might believe that if our lives just had more stuff, more toys, more of this or more of that, we would be happy.  But the truth of the matter—we just need more of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” Wow.  First, He affirms He is the light we are looking for.  It might seem easier, even logical to just put a light bulb out by the rose bush, but that light would be insufficient and could never replace the light of the sun.  And trust me, the light we need in our lives can never come from religion, denomination or some other “self medication.”  We need the true light that can only come from Him.

But He says something else.  He declares that if we walk with Him two things will happen.  We won’t have to just survive in the darkness, or starve for light and in fact we will have the light that brings life.  Bam…just what we need…just what the doctor ordered.  And if that isn’t enough, since we walk with Him there will never be the need for a transplant because we walk with the Light—we move with the Light.  Because of that, no circumstances will ever be able to hurt us.

Well, it’s just a matter of time but we will have to move our friend to a sunnier place in our yard.  And I will feel sorry for the bush as we dig him up and prune him back but it will be for his good.  After the initial pain he will bloom again and that will make it worth while.  So, what do you need to do in your life to once again walk with the Son?  What things need to be pruned back or what needs to be given up so you will be free to walk with Him again?  Yup, it might be painful but just imagine your life as you are blooming once again.  Imagine the fragrant smell of life with Him.  Make that decision today.  Go ahead and rest in Him.  He’s got this.

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

Call Me “Precious”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

I remember it like it was yesterday…or a couple of weeks ago anyway.  I am the youngest of eight children.  Some call me the baby of the family…I call it the best. My brothers and sisters nicknamed me “precious”.  I used to think it was because they were jealous, but I later learned they were just right.  And, because I was so precious, well, I often was the target of pranks and other acts of terrorism.

The two sisters right above me and myself were called the three little ones.  That was because everybody else was several years older and therefore bigger.  My two youngest sisters were the main terrorists.  They loved to hold me down and tickle me mercilessly and then pull my ears till they were blood red. It’s because of them one of my ears sticks out further than the other. They were two tough cookies.

One time they pushed me out the door in my underwear and wouldn’t let me back in.  I banged and banged on the door ,all to no avail.  They, of course, will deny all of this but trust me, at the Judgement Seat all will be revealed and they will surely be grateful for grace.

I have always had an affection for sweet things and they even used that against me.  One day one of them came up and said, “Dewayne, do you want some candy?”  Well, my response was, “Well sure.”  It was a small box and in my excitement I didn’t take time to read the label.  Honestly, since I was only about eight, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.  So, I opened the box and found that it was filled with chocolates.  There were only three or four pieces in the box and before long…they were gone.

I did notice that they tasted a little different, but they were sweet, and they were brown so hey, that was close enough for me.  I should have been suspicious that the terrorists were being so nice but I always was a trusting soul.  Well, several hours passed and before long time wasn’t the only thing that passed.  You see, my loving sisters had fed me a whole box of Ex-Lax.  They would deny it, you probably can’t believe it, but trust me, I was there.  Oh, boy was I there.

Well, I learned a lot of lessons growing up and this is one of them.  You see, things are often not what they seem to be. I thought I was a getting a box of chocolates and instead I got a box of trouble.  It looked like chocolate, it even tasted like chocolate, but it wasn’t even close.  Did you know that the Bible warns us how the devil can disguise himself?  It says that he can disguise himself as an angel of light when in fact he is the angel of darkness.  Remember that…things are not always as they seem.

I also learned that not everyone who comes bearing gifts can be trusted.  I should have known better when they offered me that box, but my desire for chocolate overruled my common sense.  That is what how Adam and Eve got in trouble in the garden. The story is found in Genesis and it says, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” And just like that…I found myself eating Ex-Lax.

It’s a tricky world out there…terrorists are lurking everywhere and sometimes they might be related, so be careful.  Be sure and use your good common sense if someone offers you a little box filled with chocolates.  You might be getting more than you bargained for.  Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have understood the label even if I had read it. But do you know what?  My mama would have.  In fact, if I had gone to mama this story would have been totally different.  But, well, I didn’t. As we journey through this upside down world, don’t forget to go to your Dearest Daddy with your questions and mysteries.  He is always there, and He is always watching out for you.  You can trust Him. His box of chocolate is always the real deal.  So have a seat, open the box and enjoy.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this.

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

Judy’s “S” Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Change…or Not?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tripe and Gossip

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture

Food Truck

“When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

There’s a new food truck in town.  For the past several years I have begun my day by walking for exercise.  I take several different routes but one of my favorites is around the lake at the city park.  It was there I met Bubba the goose (for past readers he said to tell you hi), saw the power of integration in the goose families (they are doing fine), saw a man waging a war with people I could not see, and saw the new food truck in town.  Let me explain.

We walkers see two kinds of exercisers.  Some people come and go and some are regular as clockwork, they show up to walk each day.  Like Forest Gump they start running—or walking—and just don’t stop.  These folks become unofficial friends.  We may not know each other’s names, what we do for a living or where the other person lives but for those few minutes at the park our lives intersect. And then, there’s the “food truck.”

She loves dogs and really animals.  She walks her dogs every day in the park…and there are several.  But what is interesting is that for a long time there was a cat walking with her.  I mean a lot of people walk dogs, but a cat?  The feline wasn’t on a leash but would just quietly walk behind her and the dogs.  Talk about intriguing.  So after a while I just had to talk with her.  It turns out it wasn’t her cat at all.  She met the cat one day while walking and it looked a little thin so she started dropping some dry cat food on the sidewalk and …well the cat had breakfast and hung around for dessert. There was a new “food truck” in town.

Sadly, one day our feline friend wasn’t there and I learned that he was hit by a car and didn’t survive.  We mourned together…a lady I didn’t know losing a cat she didn’t own but we paused and grieved.  But before long, there was another cat.  I first saw him on the sidewalk about a block from the park and he was having breakfast on the sidewalk and I knew the “food truck” had been by.  The relationship wasn’t as tight or as long but she had made a new friend by meeting a need.

Well, one day I was again walking in the park and ahead I saw several squirrels having breakfast.  Yup, the “food truck” fed squirrels too.  And then a few days later I saw several ducks gathered on the walking trail.  Turns out ducks like cat food and they too were having breakfast.  The “food truck” was a hit in the park and everyone was invited.  But the funniest part was yet to happen.

So I am walking, and across the narrow lake I can see her walking her dog.  Behind her is a group of ducks having breakfast.  Then on my side of the lake there are three ducks and they are on the move.  They are waddling as fast as their little legs would take them and they are quacking up a storm.  Again, my duck is a little rusty but I believe they were saying, “Hey wait for us.”  So huffing and puffing they waddle down a small peninsula and jump in. Paddling furiously they headed straight across the lake.  Like kids chasing the ice cream truck they swam on.  It was my last lap for the day but the last time I saw them they were on shore and hollering, “Wait, we’re coming.”

I don’t know my friend’s name but I do know her impact.  Her acts of kindness to animals makes her a hit with them and with me.  She just seems to care and really, besides this strange sort of fan club, gets no other reward.  She just does what she thinks is the next right thing.  I wonder how different our world would be if we did the same.  Jesus did.  The Book tells us that when He saw people—He didn’t see social class, He didn’t see color—He just saw people and He had compassion on them. He saw them as sheep without a shepherd or maybe like ducks needing breakfast.

Compassion is best defined as simply love in action.  Its seeing a need and then doing what you can to meet that need. Imagine today taking the time to show kindness to someone having a difficult day.  Imagine today taking the time to give someone a smile when they are only used to frowns.  Imagine today doing simply the next right thing—without reward, without expectation—simply because it is the right thing to do.  It might just be amazing.  It might just look crazy…like a cat following a lady walking her dog. It might just be game changing.

In a few minutes, I’m going to do my walking thing.  I don’t have any cat food.  In fact my shorts don’t even have pockets but I can pack an intentional smile for someone who needs one.  I can do that.  Sometimes Jesus gave out free lunches to crowds—big crowds.  Sometimes He healed broken bodies and spirits.  But something that I think we overlook is that He probably smiled…a lot.  Imagine His joy as He shared and showed compassion—love in action. Like the cat, like the ducks following the “food truck” people followed Him.  Not just for the bread, though some did, but because around Him they felt safe. They felt loved. They found a place where they could rest from the craziness of life.  We can too.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture, thankful

Miss Pauline’s Sour Cream Raisin Pie

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:7

Try it. You’ll like it.  Over the years I have met so many incredible people.  I have learned that people are not perfect but people add spice and challenge to life.  People make life…life.  I am a pastor by call and by trade and I love it.  There are many reasons that is true but one is the people I get to serve with.  One of those was Bob.  Bob is a friend from my past but at the same time Bob is a friend that I could see tomorrow and we would pick up right where we left off.

Bob is one of those people with a quirky sense of humor.  I love that because I do too.  I remember one time he showed up at the church office and beeped the horn.  I went and opened the door and went out.  He told me to come around to the other side of the truck and hop in. Well, I went and opened the door and what greeted me was a five or six foot rattlesnake coiled up on the from seat.  We almost had a natural disaster there on the spot.  Turned out the snake was headless.  Bob liked snakes so I don’t think he did the honors but why miss the opportunity to scare your pastor to death?

Now Bob and I are Baptists.  One thing you need to know about Baptists is that we believe food is the cure all for all things.  If we are sad—we eat.  If we are happy—we eat.  If someone dies—we eat.  If someone gets married—we eat.  And sometimes, well, we just eat for fun.  Well, Bob and I were at one of our meetin’ eatin’ times and I was eating some raisin pie.  Now this wasn’t your normal raisin pie.  This was Miss Pauline’s sour cream raisin pie and it was incredible.  I was working on my second piece when I invited Bob to have a taste.

“Nope,” he said, “I don’t like raisin pie.”  Well I began to persuade him with all of my preacher passion.  “This,” I explained, “is like no other raisin pie you have ever eaten.”  I went on to explain how this pie would make your tongue slap your face.  So after about five minutes of “you really need to try this,” he did.  The results were as expected and immediate.  Two or three pieces later Bob was an official member of the Miss Pauline’s sour cream raisin pie fan club.

Here is what he and I came to discover.  There is raisin pie and there is Miss Pauline’s sour cream raisin pie and the two are not the same.  And once I tasted Miss Pauline’s pie, I wanted him to experience it too.  I just knew that if he did, he would be a fan for life.  And do you know what?  I think that is true about Jesus too.  I find a lot of people are not too keen on God or Jesus.  The reason is simple.  They have tasted religion and decided pretty quick that wasn’t too tasty.  I agree with that one.  Some have tasted church and depending on their experience it was either a disaster or a delight.  At any rate, church isn’t the fix all that people think that it is.  Religion or church are just plain ole raisin pie.  You need more…you need Jesus.

Yup, Jesus is like Miss Pauline’s raisin pie. He is so much more than religion and so much more than church…He is the One who knew the price for sin was death and then willingly paid the price for that sin.  He died on a Roman cross to pay the price for our sin and then came back to life three days later to prove He was the Son of God. It is a pretty amazing story.  If you have never read about it let me suggest you get a copy of the Bible read about Him.  You will find Him in the first four books of the New Testament.  You will find He is like sour cream raisin pie…delicious and irresistible.  But you can’t know that if you don’t take a taste.

David (he is one of the Kings of Israel from Bible times) was on the run from one of his enemies when he wrote, “Oh taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” David was saying if you will take just one taste of the real deal you will like what you taste.  Its not religion, its not church—it is the Man who died on the cross because He loved me and you.

So, if you ever get the chance to taste sour cream raisin pie, especially if somehow you can find a piece of Miss Pauline’s, well don’t wait and don’t delay.  Even if, especially if, you have tried plain ole raisin pie you are gonna be surprised!  And if you haven’t read the story of Jesus, well don’t wait and and don’t delay.  Even if, especially if, you have been turned off by church and religion, you are gonna be surprised. You are gonna find out that He is the real deal.  You are gonna find out when and if you decide to follow Him, He will be your new BFF (best friend forever) and He will never leave you sitting beside the road.  He is the kind of friend that you can call at 2:00 am and never get a busy signal.  He is the kind of friend who invites you to sit and chat on the front porch and rest a while.  He is the kind of friend that is like a strong, big brother who loves you.  Strong enough to say, “I’ve got this” and pull it off.  Try Him…You’ll love Him.

Posted in food, life, Scripture, Southern born

Stupid Watermelon

For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:3-4

I should have just stayed home.  You probably don’t know there is such a thing as a stupid watermelon but if you live long enough you will surely run into one.  In my case it happened just a couple of weeks ago at our local grocery store.  Before I begin the story you need to know that I am one of those slightly older people who has “old people’s skin.”  In case you don’t know “old people’s skin” happens as a person ages.  The result is skin that bruises and wounds easily.  Let me just say, “It ain’t fun.” It goes like this.

You are opening the storm door with one of those automatic closing things.  The wind catches the door, banging into your arm.  Congratulations…you are the proud owner of a new bruise.  You are carrying a pile of limbs to the rubbish pile and one shifts in your hands and against, or rather into, your arm.  You win again.  You are going up the stairs…yes, I said up the stairs, and your foot catches on the riser and you fall against the wall.  Double congratulations…you win a bruise and cut.  Sigh.

And it is always the hand you use the most.  In my case I am left-handed so my left arm continually looks like I play major league football or have wrestled with a full-grown lion.  Either way…its’ not pretty.  And mark my word, just about the time you get it healed up…bam…you start all over again. That, dear friends, is where the stupid watermelon comes along.

I don’t do grocery stores.  I definitely do food…I just don’t do grocery shopping.  Well, one evening I was feeling pretty jovial and decided to go to the grocery store with my wife Judy.  We enter the store and get one of those cute (on no…I said cute again) mini baskets and off we go.  We are heading back to the bakery so I am in a particularly good mood.  I can already taste the greasy, fried dough.  Then…it happens.  There is a sign that says, “Watermelons – $3.99.”  Judy loves watermelons.

We pause and begin to study the watermelons.  She thumps them.  She pats them. She caresses them.  After several minutes the winner is chosen.  “I want this one” she declares.  Her galant, strong prince, hoists the winning melon out of the bin of losers and prepares to put it in the buggy.  Because we have a mini-buggy, I decided to put it in the bottom rather than the top.  That is where things got ugly.

I bend over and prepare to slide the watermelon into the too small bottom portion of the buggy. Just at the time of releasing the melon and removing my hand—it slips. As it falls into the too small bottom portion it rolls on my hand and catches my finger between the basket and watermelon. “Ouch,” I said.  When I was able to maneuver my finger from between the basket and melon—I saw it.  Not a bruise…oh no…but a nice ¾ inch skin laceration.  It was bleeding. Badly. Profusely.  It was then the true nature of the melon escaped my lips, “Stupid watermelon.”  No wonder they were on sale for $3.99.

It seems at least they could have put a sign up that read, “Stupid Watermelons – $3.99.”

Well, I quickly became obsessed over the true nature of the evil watermelon.  “Hey Judy, do you have a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the stupid watermelon?” “Honey, do you want some cheese to go with the stupid watermelon?” On and on it went and the watermelon and I became mortal enemies.  And the coup-de-grace?  Not only was it stupid…it wasn’t even sweet.  Sigh.

But no, I had to find out the hard way.  About then Judy said something like, “Well, it really wasn’t the watermelon…it was the buggy.” I began to protest but I think she said something like, “And you know it happened because it slipped out of your hand.”  By that I assumed she meant the one that was cut and bleeding.  Somehow it didn’t make my hand feel any better and two weeks later I still have some healing to do.  But…she was right.

It wasn’t the watermelon, it wasn’t the buggy it wasn’t even me.  It was just one of those things that happen.  I just needed to blame something because my hand hurt and 746 people were going to ask, “What happened to your hand?”  Blaming it on a stupid watermelon just seemed easier.  The truth is, it is easier to blame than it is to own.  It has been that way since the beginning of time.  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve and God for the hot mess they were in after they chose to sin.  Eve, of course, blamed the serpent and the serpent, well, he just smiled. Whether it is broken skin or a broken heart; whether it is someone’s fault or not; whether you own part of the skirmish or all of it—why not take a moment and own it. Press the pause button, calm down and then just eat the watermelon.  That way, you will get the last laugh.  Then, tell God about it, all about it and take a rest in Him.  He’s got that and this.

Posted in food, life, Scripture

“Pigdemic”

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

I was afraid I had caught it.  We have all heard all we need to hear about the corona virus.  Regardless of what magazine, newspaper, news program, talk show or person you talk to, eventually, the topic of this pandemic will come up.  Nothing has so dominated the public’s attention like this, this, this disaster, this tragedy, this pain in the neck, this maker of our new normalcy…COVID-19.  Oh, and I wasn’t afraid that I caught that.  Nope…but I was almost certain I had caught its first cousin.

Did you know that the pandemic had a first cousin?  Oh yes, it does.  It is the dreaded…wait for it…pigdemic.  Yup…you read it right.   Pigdemic is a new phenomenon that is sweeping the nation.  It happens when people are forced to stay at home for extended periods of time, bored out of their minds.  In this condition, people eat and eat and eat. They eat things that they love, they eat things they like, they eat things they don’t like and they eat things they have never heard of.   The consequences are weighty.

Clothes magically shrink while hanging in closets, mirrors suddenly make people appear shorter and wider, gravity seems to take on added strength when we try to get off of the couch and exercise becomes more difficult, much more difficult.  And that is where I made a self-diagnosis.  I had the pigdemic.  It happened like this.

First, despite my shrinking clothes, I have managed to walk 2.5 miles, five or six days a week at a respectable 14 minute mile pace.  Well, this morning, after walking, my wife was going to ride her bike.  I decided I would join her.  After all, riding a bike had to be easier than walking.  So off we went! I was surprised when she was about 40 yards ahead of me and I was panting like a dog on a hot day.  “Hmmmm” I said.  She had to stop and adjust her seat (for which I am eternally grateful) and I told her, “I don’t know if it is because I walked this morning or maybe it is those pesky donuts but I am tired. This is hard.” She laughed and kindly said it was probably because I had walked.  I was sure it was the donuts.

So we kept riding, I kept falling behind and I was pretty sure I was going to die.  I was certain I had the pigdemic.  I wasn’t ready to swear off donuts but I was close.  Well, I had been hearing a noise on my front wheel (which sounded strangely like a pig squealing) but I didn’t think too much about it.  I should have.  I finally told Judy I was going to stop and check out the squealing pig sound.  I did and it turned out my front wheel was off center causing my brake to be about half on. I loosened the front wheel and centered it slightly and got back on.  Two amazing things happened.  The squealing pig was gone and suddenly I could peddle a lot easier.  A whole lot easier.

It turns out I was not about to die from the pigdemic.  It was a brake that was braking when it should have been coasting. I discovered it is amazing when you ride a bike how much harder it is when the brake is on…even a little.  A little braking can quickly break your spirit.  I decided before I ride again I’m going to check my bike out a little closer and make sure there are no squealing pigs on board.

I wonder if that is what the writer of Hebrews had in mind? He encouraged us to lay aside every weight and every sin that might hinder us from running our race or riding our spiritual bike.  I think it might be.  The weights are things that may not be wrong for us but are just not helpful.  It might be like riding a bike and carrying a ten pound rock in your basket…just because you like rocks.  Sin, well, we know what sin is. If you are biking it might be like riding with a flat tire.  Not a good idea.  Whether it is rocks or flat tires, the bottom line is life is harder when we carry stuff that we don’t need or that can and will hurt us.

So, if you are riding your bike and there is a sound that sounds like a squealing pig, it probably isn’t the pigdemic.  It’s probably a wheel off-center causing your brake to brake. If life seems a little more difficult, why not ask God and see if you have a rock or two in your basket or worse, a flat tire.  Try praying this prayer from Psalm 139:23-24. “Father would you search me inside and out, run some tests on me, and see if there is anything hindering me, hurting me?  Would you see if there is something that I’m doing that offends you?  Would you lead me in a way that shows others I am on Your path? Thank-you Father. Amen.” Now that is one prayer that God wants to answer.  He wants you to peddle through life with the wind at your back, a song in your heart and no squealing pigs on board.  And when you get home you can rest in Him.  Do you know why?  Yup…He’s got this.