Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, wisdom

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born

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 really hot in North Florida.  When I write these stories I try and remember things that happened in my youth and sometimes they are just funny.  When I was about eight years old, my mom and dad were always looking for ways to save a little money.  I didn’t know if we were rich or poor and most of the time, I didn’t care.  Sometimes it was obvious but most of the time, it was just normal.

I’m not sure how we started, but we began to buy our milk from a family that lived about a mile from us.  It wasn’t really a dairy farm, it was more like they had three or four cows. We would go over twice a week and buy a gallon in big half-gallon glass jugs.  And let me tell you…this wasn’t that pasteurized stuff we drink today.  It was straight from the cow.  And one more thing, it wasn’t 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 this milk made the best ice cream you have 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 Mama 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 up front.  In fact, in those days dashboards were made out of metal.  Anyway, we got to the home where they sold the milk. Mama paid the lady and I was 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.  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 to.  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.

Mama 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, however, 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 twofold, there was carpet and then, like they did back then, there was also a thick pad underneath that 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 was really hot in North Florida.  Well, by the next morning there was a strange odor in the whole car and it 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.  The breeze from the open windows made it better, but when Mama or Daddy hit a stop light, Katie bar the door…it smelled awful. For days and days our 1957 Plymouth smelled horrible. I’m pretty sure I was not winning any family member popularity contests for the next couple of weeks. The smell lasted long after the accident…oh boy did 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?  If so, you probably know what this story is about.  You see when we get all fired up and make bad choices with big regrets, it doesn’t just go away…oh no…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 broken by our hands or voices.

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.  Maybe, like me,  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…Mama would have too.  But, I thought I could handle it.  Sometimes, we think that way in life too.  Why not ask for a little help from your Heavenly Father before the milk gets spilt? Ask and He will help you the rest of the way.  You can count on Him.   He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, travel

Taters

Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33

It was a sight for sore eyes. A while back when my aunt died, I went down to be a part of her memorial service.  It was a special time for me since it was my Daddy’s baby sister.  Though he has been gone since 1974 it was an opportunity to honor him.  The funeral was in Gainesville, Florida and the return trip gave my wife and I an opportunity to travel some Southern back roads.  We chose to travel north through Alabama and it turned out to be a real treasure.

Judy and I are both from the South.  She is from Valdosta, Georgia and I am from Jacksonville, Florida. There are just certain things about living in the South that are special.  You will find things run just a bit slower there.  It’s not uncommon to find an older gentleman in an old pickup truck going nowhere in a hurry.  It is a Southern thing.  It’s not uncommon to see homesteads with old tin roofs often tinted with a rich red rust.  It is a Southern thing. It’s not uncommon to see old groves of giant pecan trees ready for a rich harvest of nuts.  It is a Southern thing.  It’s not uncommon to see old tobacco barns with smoke slowly drifting skyward as the brown leaves dry.  It is a Southern thing.

There are many things like that in the South and each one is a treasure to those who recognize them.  But if there is one thing that marks the South, if there is one treasure above the rest, it is good Southern cooking.  You can find it in most kitchens in those older homes.  Mamas are teaching their daughters (and sometimes their sons) how to season green beans and fry chicken or mash potatoes.  If you’ve never eaten Southern comfort food…well, you’ve never eaten well!

As we were traveling North through rural Alabama we were seeing all these things and reliving our roots.  It was time (actually past time) for breakfast so we began looking for a place to eat.  We found ourselves in Luverne, Alabama.  It is a small town which happens to be one of the treks to the beaches in Florida…so it gets a fair amount of traffic.  We had traveled through before for that very reason.  We were looking for a “mom and pop” place and we found Taters.  It was a small restaurant in Luverne and it looked like just the spot.  “Taters” was in yellow on the front of the barn red building.  It had a “Jesus 2020” sign planted by the entrance.  Things were looking promising.

We went in and immediately noticed the decor.  It was, shall we say, “Southern Jesus.”  Hand lettered Scriptures filled the walls.  The napkin holders had the same.  Back by the restrooms was a big sign about God.  The server came as friendly as a Chick-fil-A employee on steroids. We ordered our food and waited.  Soon, sitting in front of us was one of the most delicious breakfast meals I have tasted in years.  There were three eggs sunny-side up (that means the yokes were sitting there like two small suns), a side of hash browns cooked nice and crispy, three strips of thick cut bacon cooked like it should be—limp. And then there it was.

“It” was a real big spoon full of Southern cooked grits. These weren’t the instant variety—they were the slow cooked kind.  And right in the middle of that pile of grits was a puddle of melted butter.  It was Southern manna—it was heaven.  And trust me—everything was as good as it looked.  Now, no lectures about heart attacks, I don’t eat like that all the time, but that time—I did so with no regrets—not even one.  But here’s the surprise—that wasn’t the most important thing.  The thing that mattered most was the Jesus part.  You see this was a restaurant that served up Jesus first and just happened to also serve good food.  Their mission was Jesus and their food was a side dish.  I was real glad they could cook, but I was blessed by their Jesus boldness.  I walked out with a full tummy, a full heart, and a life lesson.

You see, if we follow Jesus, He has to be the center of our universe.  Our sign at church says, “Jesus First. Before. Anything. Else. Period.”  That is what Taters in Luverne, Alabama is doing.  Food is second to Jesus.  So, what about you?  What about us?  Are you a teacher first and then a Jesus follower? Are you a CEO first and then a Jesus follower?  Are you a coal miner first and then a Jesus follower?  Are you a preacher first and then a Jesus follower? What about this?  What if we starting reversing that?  How about a Jesus follower who happens to be a teacher; a Jesus follower who happens to be a CEO; a Jesus follower who happens to be a coal miner or, yes, a Jesus follower who happens to be a preacher.

Jesus First. Before. Anything. Else. Period. That would be a game changer.  Jesus said if we would “seek His Father first and live for Him, He would give us everything you need.” We need that today.  These chaos infested days we are living in  are golden opportunities to be a light in a dark world.  But we can only do that effectively if Jesus stops being an add on to our lives and becomes our lives.

The next time I am driving through Luverne, you can bet I will stop for some good food and a good helping of “Southern Jesus.”  They might not be there because “Jesus first” can be risky.  In their case it might cost them business.  If you do “Jesus first” it may cost you a friend or two or maybe a promotion, or maybe your popularity. Regardless, it is worth it. One more piece of travel advice. As you travel life’s hectic highway, stop and take a rest with Jesus.  And go ahead and be sure and put Him first.  Risky? Yup.  But, hey, remember, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

God Is

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?” Matthew 6:31

I am not much for going grocery shopping and that is probably a real paradox. I really like food–we are great friends–just not buying and preparing it. But the other night, Judy and I went to the park for a walk (good idea–walk with your wife…she cooks food) and then went to Wal-Mart to get a few items.

So, we get to the store and there was plenty of food there. For sure, some items were sold out (they had toilet paper) but others were plenteous. The cookie aisle was hard hit but strangely the broccoli wasn’t. So, when I got to the bread aisle it was empty…bare. For a southern boy, well, that was a little weird.

It made me think about the children of Israel and their trips to the grocery store. For forty years they would walk outside the camp and there all around them were little mounds of manna. It is described as small, round and sweet (Krispy Kreme’s?) and it was always there. Never a time did they go out when the store was open (it was closed for the Sabbath) and the shelf was bare.

God was teaching them something. They couldn’t hoard because God told them to go out every day and get one day’s supply. The only exception was the day before the Sabbath when they could get two. And every day they went and there were the “Krispy Kremes” all over the ground and they would pick them up and God was saying, “I am good, I am faithful and I can be trusted.”

Day after day, week after week, month after month–“I am good, I am faithful and I can be trusted.” Never a bare shelf, never a failure to deliver, never an oops. We may not have manna lying around today, but we do have the faithfulness of that same God. He takes care of His kids. You can bank on it.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-32 “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32. For the Gentiles [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

So, in these days–especially in these days–every time there is a need met or a blessing given, remember to say, “Thank you, Father.” And slowly but surely, we will learn the valuable lesson of God’s faithfulness. God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted. He’s got this. Rest in Him today.

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

I’ve “Bean” Educated

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.  Oh wait–that opening line is already taken. Well, it was just over ten years ago now but I well remember the night. Judy was out of town and I was at the church.  We were sponsoring a dinner for the football team.  I wanted to help but, well, it didn’t go to well.  It is a known fact that I can’t be trusted with a power tool of any sorts.  It just doesn’t go well.  Apparently you can add kitchen appliances to that list.

I love being a fixer.  When one of my grandkid’s toys would break, they would bring it to Papa—they fixer.  I love being the hero. And, I love to help. It’s in my DNA. WelI, that night I volunteered to help the head cooker person get a large pan of baked beans out of the convection oven at church.  It was in one of those pans made out of formed aluminum.  When I volunteered, I could see the concern in the head cooker person’s eyes—for an expert this was no deal.  For a preacher who wasn’t allowed to use power tools—it was death valley.

“Dewayne”, she said, watch the bottom of the pan—it can collapse if you aren’t careful.”  She went on, “You might want to put a sheet pan under it for support.” Well, Mister “I -Know-It-All” said, “No deal, I can handle it.” So, I reached up, I lifted it and in a moment of time…a moment that will live in infinity…the pan collapsed and my lower left arm was baptized in a tsunami of scalding, hot baked beans.  The pain was instantaneous and it was intense. Can someone say “ouch?”

Well, I immediately used my other hand to wipe some of the beans off (not too smart since I burned that hand too) and ran to the sink and started running water over it.  The bottom line is I ended up with second degree burns, a working knowledge of how not to take beans out of the oven and several other good life lessons added to my repertoire of knowledge. You might say I have “bean” educated.”

Perhaps the first lesson is this.  No matter how well you do something the wrong way, it probably isn’t going to work out for your benefit.  When King David and his crew were moving the ark in the Old Testament, they decided to use a cart instead of doing it God’s way.  The result was the oxen stumbled and a man reached out to steady the ark and was instantly struck dead by God.  Now don’t blame God—the rule was you don’t touch the ark.  Period.  But when you do something in a wrong way you open yourself up to a whole bunch of circumstances.

Second, listen to the experts.  The head cooker person I was helping was a professional cook.  She knew the danger–I didn’t.  I was a he-man, bean toting pastor–that is until “I spilt the beans” (no pun intended!) I thought I could handle it—and I could not. I’m not sure why we wrestle this around but isn’t it funny how God, the ultimate expert, offers us advice–and we tend to ignore it.  And the pain that it causes can rival or exceed second degree burns. Listen to God.  He knows best.

Finally, get ready for the lasting effects of the consequences.  I burned my arm on a Tuesday and it took days, lots of days, to even begin to feel normal. Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t go to the doctor because I was going to tough it out? You see, pride is a bad deal.  I guess I was embarrassed enough and I just didn’t want to explain to the doctor about how unwise I was.  So, I just dealt with it.  Fortunately I did bump into him later and he saw the bandage, checked it out, asked the inevitable questions, and gave me some awesome medicine for burns. It did heal and left only minimal scarring to gently remind me to listen before I act. It taught me that whatever you sow…you reap. It taught me that—every bad choice we make carries some sort of consequences.  Choose wisely, my son, choose wisely.

So, ten years later, there is still a twinge of regret over that fateful Tuesday night.   I still shake my head and wonder how in the world I could do something so, so, stupid. Everyone once in a while when we are having a dinner at church, I will say, “Hey, head cooker person, do you remember…” and before I can finish the sentence we both nod knowingly.  I was afraid I was going to swear off bake beans forever but that that didn’t happen but I will never look at a pan of beans the same way.  And I will forever have a greater respect for a convention oven set on 350 degrees.

As you journey along and you are faced with decisions and crossroads and someone suggests maybe going this way or that or doing it this way or that—take a moment, pause and listen to their advice—especially if it involves baked beans.  And if that voice is a gentle whisper from the Whisper, definitely stop and listen.  He will probably be helping you avoid some needless pain or letting you know you can rest in Him.  He will be whispering, “I’ve got this.”

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Blueberry Crumble and More

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4

I love dessert.  My journey with dessert goes back to my earliest memories.  Whether it was a biscuit with cane syrup and butter or a cake or pie from mama’s oven—I loved dessert.  Sometimes when there was nothing else, I would grab a teaspoon from the drawer and shovel in a teaspoon of sugar.  Hey, when it’s all you have—it’s all that you have.

Two dessert memories spring from my earlier years.  I remember my mama having to have surgery when I was about 10 years old.  Two things happened during that time that were monumental.  First, dad took care of us.  Daddy was a bring-home-the-bacon kind of guy and mom took care of the kids and the house. Well, with her in the hospital and daddy not cooking much—things were a bit different in the kitchen.  I remember one night we were coming home from the hospital and daddy stopped at a place called Milligan’s Burgers and I had my first taste of a fast-food hamburger.  It was kinda like a Krystal Burger and it was a big deal.

Something else that happened during mama’s hospital stay showed her love for me and solidified my love for desserts.  During her stay, the “three-little-ones” and my daddy made our nightly visit to the hospital.  We walked into her room and there she was in her hospital bed with the tray thing (much like today) beside her bed.  She said, “Dewayne, I saved you something from my supper.”  There on her tray in a small bowl was a serving of “blueberry crunch.” It was like a small blueberry, crunch top pie and it was delicious.  To this day I never eat anything blueberry with a crunch top without thinking about my mama’s love.

Years later, my oldest brother and I were visiting another brother out in Texas.  It was a man-trip that included driving all night, camping in the mountains, and eating.  When we got back from the mountain part, we had a last supper of sorts, and his wife made cherry cheesecake.  Well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven and ate a whole lot more than I should have.  After supper we hit the road for the long drive back to Florida and before long, I wished I could die and go to heaven.  All that cherry cheesecake started rolling around in my belly and we had to make more than one stop—and it wasn’t for gas.

Yup…dessert and I go way back. When we go visit someone for supper, I always enjoy the food and fellowship, but I also always hold back a little room for dessert.  I know the best is yet to come.  The story is told of a woman who wanted to be buried with a spoon in her casket.  When asked why, she said, “Well, when I go to someone’s house for supper, the hostess will lean down and say, “Be sure and keep your spoon.”  I always smile when that happens because I know that means that there is dessert and the best is yet to come.”  I like that.

In this crazy, upside down world of the never-ending story of COVID, racial injustice, violence and what’s sure to be a crazy election time, we probably should all carry a spoon in our pocket.  You ask, “Why should we do that?”  Well, it would remind us that this crazy world is not the end.  It would remind us that for every person who is Christ follower, who can call God Dearest Father, there is more—much more.  That beyond this life is eternal life—that the best is surely yet to come.

I am so grateful for the life that God has given me.  Like a delicious meal filled with good old Southern comfort food, I enjoy each day…mostly.  Honestly though, life is filled too with warts, bumps and more than a few bruises.  But it seems like at the table of this banquet called life, I can hear the Whisperer lean over and say, “Be sure and keep your spoon.”  When that happens, I know He is reminding me that the best is yet come.  As good as life is here, it is going to be a million times better there.  The Bible speaks of heaven as a place of no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no separation and no more death.  It is like dessert on steroids.  I. Can’t. Wait.

Well, I know I need to keep my love affair with desserts in check.  Both my doctor and my wife Judy remind me of that.  But each time I get to indulge, you can take it to the bank that I’m gonna remember that there is more than this hot mess coming and it is going to be good.  You know, sometimes when Judy is cooking I go in and sneak a taste.  I love to sneak a bite of cookie dough when she isn’t looking.  It’s just a sample of the finished product.  Take time today to crawl up with Jesus and take a rest.  It will just be a taste of what is coming in eternity…just enough to keep you wanting as you wait.  And then, remember this…that the Master Maker of dessert—God—has all this under control.  Yup…He’s got this.

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.