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

Eating Your Words

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. And “dinner on the grounds” at church was a potluck straight from heaven.

My mama was the biscuit queen.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have desert, 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 cane 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 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, though, I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways. No pun intended.

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 and is pimento cheese.  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.

Did you know that tripe and gossip are first cousins?  No really. 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 say it. 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.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Sand Through an Hourglass

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” Ephesians 5:15-16

The thief has struck again.  Without anyone noticing a thief has been stealing from us all.  It happens every day and no one does anything to stop it because they can’t.  Slowly and almost without notice the thief takes from us.  Who is this thief?  It is time itself…the calendar.

The day of the year with the most daylight hours is around June 21st.  It is known as the summer equinox.  On that day the tilt of the earth allows the northern hemisphere to be closest to the sun allowing the maximum amount of daylight hours.  On June 21st sunrise occurs at 5:32 am in our town.  Fourteen hours and forty-six minutes later it sets at 8:19 pm.  From that time forward, slowly, and surely the amount of daylight hours began to recede.

You ask, “How much?”  Well, today the sun will rise at 6:35 am and will set at 7:00 pm.  If you do the math, you will discover that will give us 12 hours and 25 minutes of daylight.  Amazingly you will find that the thief has taken over two hours of daylight from us.  And each passing day he will take another few minutes.  Finally, someday in the near future, we will get up and wonder why it is still dark, or why the sun is setting so early.  The answer is the daylight thief. Like sand through an hourglass, he steals away the day.

I find all this pretty fascinating.  As the days and weeks march by, it reminds us that fall is coming.  Before long the leaves will be changing colors and falling to the ground.  Soon our thoughts will turn to cooler temperatures, beautiful mums, and Thanksgiving.  On December 21 the process will all reverse.  We will begin to gain back those precious minutes of daylight and it will remind us of the promise that spring is on its way.

The amazing part of all of this is how subtly it all happens. It is true of the calendar and the hours of daylight we experience, and it is true of so many small things in our lives.  We take in a few too many calories and before long we wonder why our clothes are tighter.  Humidity?  I mean they do call it the air you can wear.  We miss a few days of exercise and wonder why our energy level suddenly drops.  We miss a few days talking with our Dearest Father and wonder why He feels like a stranger. We miss our time with the Book and find ourselves bumbling our way through life. Sigh.  It is all too familiar and all too predictable.

The secret, I believe, is to be aware.  I have an Apple watch that tells me more than I need or want to know.  One of the things it tells me is the time of the sunrise and sunset.  A few days ago, the sun was setting at 7:45 pm and I knew that meant before long it would be setting at 7:00 pm.  Sure enough, it is.  Whether it is exercise or calories or prayer or reading the Book, if we pay attention, we will have fewer surprises and consequences.  I like what Moses said.  He wrote, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”  You know, wisdom to watch what we eat and how much we exercise.  Wisdom to stop and talk to God and read His Book.  Yup…good, good advice.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, put it another way.  He said we should make the most of everyday, not living as someone who is foolish but as someone who is wise.  He goes on to say we should do this because the days are evil—or full of difficulties and challenges.

The fact is we all get 1440 minutes a day—no more, no less. The hours of daylight may change, but time has been set for eternity.  1440 opportunities to make the most of life, to get it right.  And, because we are imperfect humans, we can use some of those minutes to talk to our Dearest Father about our warts and failures.  We can snuggle up close as He whispers assurances of love and forgiveness.  We can just rest and know…that He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Kickapoo Joy Juice

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17

I guess I needed a little Kickapoo Joy Juice.  When I was a kid, I loved anything that was free.  It seemed back then marketers were always giving something away to try to lure consumers.  When I was about nine or ten and living in Jacksonville, one of the local radio stations, WAPE or “The Ape,” was giving away little orange styrofoam balls.  You would put the ball on your car antenna (which in those days was a metal stick about thirty inches long).  “The Ape” would have cars driving around and if they got behind you and announced your tag number on the radio, you received a prize.  It was amazing how many people had those balls on their antennas.  I think at one time we put two or three on there trying to increase our chances.

I also remember different companies giving away vinyl decals.  Countless times I would go the local “Minute Market” to see if they had anything.  One of my favorites was a soft drink that came out in 1965.  It was taken from the comic strip, Li’l Abner, and was called “Kickapoo Joy Juice.” It was similar to Mountain Dew and like Mountain Dew, had an extra kick of caffeine. I would go to the store and, if I had a dime, I would buy the drink but the real mission was to get the free decal to put somewhere in my room or on my notebook.  From the number of decals I had, you would have thought it was my favorite drink.

Recently, I bumped into another kind of Kickapoo.  During my dance with COVID, remember I nicknamed her Corena, my doctor and friend decided it would be good for me to try an infusion of special medicine.  It is given to folks that have a compromised immune system.  In my case because of my age and the fact that I am diabetic he thought it appropriate. So I went to the hospital, pulled out my wallet and got some Kickapoo Joy Juice.  And even that was an experience.

They asked me to wait in my car and they would come and get me.  Sure enough, after a few minutes, two people came out.  One was a nurse to make sure I felt like walking, I did, and the other was an escort, a bouncer of sorts, to “part the water.”  Her job was to either stop normal people when I came anywhere close, or to stop me from being too close to them.  I’m not sure if I felt important or felt like one of the lepers from the Bible.  Remember how they had to shout, “Unclean, unclean?”  Well, I’m pretty sure I know how they felt. But everyone was super kind and before long I was settled in to get my infusion of “Kickapoo.”

Well, it took almost an hour for the infusion and then I had to stick around for another hour just to make sure something weird didn’t happen.  It didn’t.  I went home and since I was in the middle of the storm, I really didn’t have a good day or night but about noon the next day, my fever broke, and I began to feel some better. I’m not at a hundred precent but each day is getting better and I am grateful. I.Am.Grateful.

Saturday night I was having supper with Judy, and she prayed the blessing for our food.  I thought she went a little over the top thanking God for this bump in our lives.  When she finished praying, I jokingly said, “Let’s not overdo the gratitude thing for this.”  I said it in jest, but really, it didn’t need to be said at all.  I don’t know all the good that is going to come out of my dance with Corena, but I know it will far outweigh the bad.

The same James, the half-brother of Jesus, that I quoted a couple of stories ago, said that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above.  Think about that. Every good and perfect gift comes down from a God who loves us more than we can imagine.  Just like my doctor and friend knew the cost would be high for my dose of Kickapoo Joy Juice, he also knew it would be of great benefit.  And my Abba Father,  sent His only Son to a broken world and a cruel cross for the same reason, except it was more than for our benefit.  It was so we could be redeemed…set free.  Amazing. He knew the price, which was higher than we could ever imagine, yet He did it.  Why?  He just loves us so.

Well, hopefully my dance with Corena continues to a swift end.  Thanks for the dance Corena, because you taught me to hurt with others.  And thank you Dearest Daddy for trusting me with the dance and for showing me once again that, “You’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Ham Sandwiches or Not…

Rejoice in the Lord always; again: I will say, Rejoice.”
Philippians 4:4

She thought it was funny.  A long time ago, my family and I were visiting with my sister Kathy and her husband Stann.  They lived way down South in the land of grits and hospitality, and we lived just across the river in Southern Illinois.  We had a great visit with them but soon it was time for us to head North.  All of my sisters are good cooks…something they must have got from Momma.  They also have good hospitality genes.  When you visit you feel welcomed and when you leave you know you will be missed.

Well, when it came time for us to leave, Miss Hospitality, kindly made us a lunch.  She said, “I packed y’all some snacks and ham sandwiches so you can stop on the way and have a picnic.  I remember thinking just how kind that was.  To go through all that trouble and to save us a few dollars to boot.  We loaded up the kids and the car and off we went.  The girls were young, only seven or eight, and Sarah was not even a glimmer in our eyes. We drove and drove and then we drove some more and before long it was time for the big picnic.

If my memory serves me right, we stopped at a picnic area on Nickajack Lake just north of the Georgia border and right inside Tennessee.  It was a beautiful place for a great picnic lunch.  My mouth watered as I thought about those delicious ham sandwiches with all the trimming. And, my wallet was happy too. McDonald’s wouldn’t be getting my business today…thanks to my kind sister.  Did I mention how nice she was?

Well, we found a parking spot and chose a picnic table near the lake.  Could it be any better?  Well, I’m sure we bowed our heads in prayer, thanking God for the food and for the kindness of the one who made it possible.  Judy passed out the sandwiches and strangely, I didn’t see any fixings.  Hmmm. That was a bit strange.  Nevertheless, I was grateful for the sandwich, and I must have been the first to take a bite.  Uh, something was wrong.  Something was missing.

As I bit through the bread, there was no ham…there was no mustard…there was no mayo.  All that lay between the bread was a single piece of paper that read, and I quote, “Ha, ha, Ha.”  Wait.  What? Well apparently, my Southern belle, hospitality laden sister had decided to play a practical joke.  There were no ham sandwiches only meatless, slices of bread.  Strangely, I don’t remember laughing. I only remember mourning the loss of my free lunch. Ha.Ha.Ha.

They say what goes around comes around and all my life I have been a practical joker and this time the joke was on me and my dear hungry wife and two precious, little hungry daughters.  I guess the winner of the day was McDonald’s who end up with my $6.75 after all.  While I don’t remember laughing, I’m glad I don’t remember being mad either.  In fact, I am sure that before long, but after a visit to McDonald’s, we were all laughing and couldn’t wait to call my sister when we got home.

As we journey through life we are going to have a lot of opportunities to either laugh or well, get mad.  Can I suggest, may I encourage you, us to do the latter and not the former?  Too often we allow the fire of the moment burn some valuable bridges.  I can imagine a nasty phone call with words of regret and then days, weeks, and months of silence from a broken relationship.  Crazier things have happened, trust me.  But gratefully, that wasn’t the way this story ended.  In fact, I wonder if Kathy even remembers this. I do and it makes me smile.

Paul, the guy who wrote a lot of the New Testament, sitting in a Roman prison with NO ham sandwiches said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice.” Well spoken, Paul, well spoken. So tomorrow or the next day, if you hit a bump, try to remember to smile and not frown.  If someone decides to pull a joke at your expense, go ahead and extend a little grace and a smile. When you do, if you do, you can be assured the Father is smiling too.  And no matter what, as always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Off the Wagon…Again

But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I sat there in the dust looking as the wagon left me behind.  Ok.  The truth is I have fallen off several things in life.  I remember one time I was on a jet ski and fell off the back.  That was mostly ok with the exception that I couldn’t for the life of me get back on.  We had an above ground pool in Cobden and one day I was leaning over the edge trying to pick something up and well, before you could say, “shoot that thing” I was over the edge and gone.  It was so fast that my wife Judy and daughter Becca, who were watching, didn’t even see me go.  Don’t mention it to either of them…they are still laughing.

I’m going on a canoe trip with the youth of our church in a week or so and I fully expect to fall out of the canoe.  I have already enlisted several people to help me get back in when I fall out and my wife Judy is prepared to do CPR. You might wonder why I know I’m going to fall out.  Let’s call it destiny. Oh, and there was the time I was tubing behind a speed boat and lost my grip and my trunks.  They are still laughing about that too.

My latest experience about falling off has to do with the proverbial wagon.  Most of us who have ever started to exercise, or started a diet, or started back to church, or any one of a number of things, know about falling off the wagon.  For me it was the food thing…again.  I was so proud. Judy had found out that she was a diabetic and all of a sudden, I had some motivation to get back on the wagon…a little friendly competition. Well, I took the bull by the horns and before long, my sugar was normal, and I was twenty pounds lighter.  I had a blood test and everything was just “honky dorrie”.  But then it happened.

The wagon hit a big old bump and I went flying off and the next thing I knew all I could see was dust and Roy Rogers was singing, “Happy Trails to You.”  And here is what I discovered…once you are off, it is hard to get back on or in.  It is true with tubes, it is true with jet skis, it is true falling out of pools, it is true trying to start the church thing again, and it is true with healthy stuff. In fact, I just had to take a break and eat a couple of cookies to keep my strength up.

Well, I would ask for some advice about how to catch and climb back on the wagon but truthfully, I know what to do.  You know you stop this and start that and you might even pray about it.  The bottom line is I need a big old helping of want too, and I’m pretty sure it is right down the road somewhere.  The nice thing about that proverbial wagon is that it does circle around the block. I probably need to buy me one of those t-shirts that say, “Before you quit remember why you started.” It’s a little late for this time but not for the next.

So, how about you?  Any wagons left you in the dust recently? Anything you need to start again or stop again?  Well, here’s one good piece of advice.  Don’t quit trying.  They say you’ve never really failed until you stop trying and just in case you have stopped believing in you…the One who made you hasn’t.  His evaluation of you and your performance doesn’t depend on success or failure.  His evaluation is based solely on His love for you and boy, does He love you a lot.  The Bible tells us that He demonstrated or showed His love for all of us by sending and allowing His Son to die. Die.For.Us.  Now that is amazing.  It is just good to know that there is Someone who believes in us regardless and He will be first in line to give me and you a hand and pull us back on the wagon.  You can count on Him to be there for you with a great word of encouragement.  “Don’t worry,” He will say, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Scars and Souvenirs

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose., I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Romans 8:28

I was probably nine years old when it happened.  If you look at my hands you will see several scars.  Over here is one from an “exacto” knife when I was putting together a car model.  Over there is one from a car accident.  I was riding with my brother-in-law and the car in front of him decided to stop and he decided not to.

There is one on my right thumb—its the one that has been there for the last 55 years.  We were visiting with my Uncle Hardy down near Chiefland, Florida.  He was mom’s brother and the city manager of that small central Florida town.  They had an annual Watermelon Festival that included all the melon you could eat and an opportunity to ride on the back of the city’s garbage truck in the parade.  That was a big deal.  I didn’t get out much.

There are two things that Uncle Hardy had that impacted my life. One was a hairline that didn’t include much hair.  Thanks Uncle Hardy.  The other was a fish camp on the Suwannee River.  It was an old Florida cabin with a tin roof, the kind legends are born from, at least for a nine-year-old.  We would take boat rides, swim in the river, and eat watermelon. And that’s where “a scar was born.”

We were eating watermelon and I picked up a large butcher knife to slice off the watermelon from the rind.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with butcher knives, but I was feeling a little like “Indiana Jones” so I picked it up.  Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I began slicing the watermelon pulling the knife toward me and my little nine-year-old hand. My dad saw it and said, “Dewayne.  Be careful with the knife. Don’t pull it toward you—push it away”.

Well, when you are nine and know it all, and you’re feeling like Indiana Jones you don’t listen to your Daddy or common sense. So I kept right on slicing and then it happened.  I got a little too close to my hand and neatly sliced a half-moon cut in my thumb.  Well, so much for Indiana Jones.  There was the usual holler, a bit of tears, a daddy’s “I told you so,” a big bandage, a little embarrassment, and the makings of a scar.

It healed fine, leaving a scar and a gentle reminder.  When you are using a knife don’t pull it toward you…push it away.  Daddy was right.  There is only one scar on my hand from using a knife incorrectly. That is because every time I am tempted to do it wrong, the scar on my right thumb says don’t.  And now the scar has become a sort of souvenir. When I see it I don’t remember the pain, the tears or the embarrassment, I remember the lesson.

How about you?  Have any scars…visible or invisible?  When you see them or think about them, does your mind instantly go back to pain? Do you find yourself constantly living “it” all over again—the hurtful word, the unkind act, the feeling of being rejected or forgotten?  What if we “scar bearers” could remember the lesson instead of the pain? What if we could remember the promise instead of the pain?  Promise?  Yes, the one found in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purposes.” This is a “go to” promise for me because I have a lot of oops, bumps, bruises, and scars.  I’m learning, though, to look at all of that not for the pain they caused, but the good God brought from them.

I’m determined to learn to glean as much as I can from each day.  It’s something I picked up during 2020.  It’s ironic how 2020 means clarity and yet we had so little of it.  But we have a God who can see all things with perfect insight.  So instead of singing the blues, I’m gonna work at turning my scars into souvenirs.  And I’m gonna lay my head down tonight and rest in Him. But there’s more.  I know now my daddy was a lot wiser than I was. He had experience with knives and watermelon.  And my heavenly Father…well, He knows everything, and do you know what?  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Deep Dish

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

Bring on the deep dish.  My wife Judy really prefers thin crust pizza.  For the sake of family unity, I like thin crust pizza…sorta.  But deep, down inside, if the truth was brought to the surface, I am a deep dish kind of guy.  In fact, if we are being honest, I would choose deep dish anything and everything.  Take lasagna as an example.  Some folks make theirs, oh, about two inches deep and that is totally fine.  Invite me over for some Italian fare and I am on.  But ask my preference and I will order deep dish every time.

Remember that pizza thing? Well, give me a thick crust, deep dish slice just about the size of the state of New Hampshire.  Oh, and can we talk about pie and cobbler?  Bring on the deep dish.  Imagine layers of apples, blackberries, peaches, or cherries… all cooked to perfection along with layers, and I mean layers, of flaky crust.  Hmmmm. Can I have a witness? I can taste it right now.  And here’s the reason why I chose deep dish.  It not that it means you always get more…I mean if it was about more – I could, and would, just get seconds.  Nope.  The reason is when you go deep, you get more of the good stuff.

With pizza it is more cheese and every other ingredient under the sun.  With pies and cobblers, it is more fruit, more crust, and more sugar. Oh yes…bring on the sugar.  Lasagna….layers upon layers of pasta and gobs and gobs of melted cheese all smothered in a rich red sauce.  More of the good stuff…it is that simple.  It is true with food, and it is true with life.

Too often we do life by simply just getting by.  I think we sometimes forget that the best things in life aren’t available at Wal-Mart or Target but are the things that we enjoy and experience in life.  A beautiful sunrise or sunset…check.  A beautiful fall or spring morning in the garden as flowers show off their glory. Check.  Sharing a good meal with family and friends…all deep dish of course. Check. My oldest granddaughter and I started a tradition when she was three.  We will get a bag of ginger snaps and a big glass of cold milk and start dunking. Now that is one special memory…a deep-dish memory.

And, honestly, many of the deep dish things in life for me come from above…way above…like from God.  I have been a Jesus follower now for about 45 years and I call Him Dearest Daddy and He calls me His child.  Now all that has nothing to do with who I am, and it has nothing to do with my performance.  Nope. It has everything to do with His deep dish love for me and Whose I am.  Check this out.  The Bible says that God loves us, all of us, so much He sent His Son Jesus to die on a Roman cross to pay the price for our sins and failures.  It also says that if we believe that, and Him, He will forgive us…no strings attached. Believe and start following… and you’ve got deep dish love.

And just like with pizza, lasagna, pie and cobbler, deep dish means you just get more of the good stuff and the good stuff from God just keeps coming.  All those sunrises and sunsets, all those flowers, all the moments with friends and family…even the air that we breath…they are all deep dish blessings from the One who made it all.  I know the press on God these days by those who say we know Him isn’t always true or good. Too often we fumble the ball in life, but I hope you will look past our mistakes and give Him a try.

In the Jewish and Christian book of Psalms, the author says we should taste and see to discover just how good God is.  I hope you will take that advice.  After all, while settle for the thin crust of religion, or maybe just nothing, when you can have the deep dish of His love and calling Him Father.  I think you will discover He is Someone worth knowing…especially when things get hard.  He’s the kind of God that will let you know, “I’ve got this.”  And…He always does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Veteran's Day

Cracker Barrel Moments

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

 It was an unexpected blessing. This morning my friend Jeremy gave me a call and asked if I wanted to go to Marion (a town about 25 miles from where we live) with him.  He needed some stuff from Sam’s so it just sounded like a good thing to do.  And do you know what? It was.  He swung by the house and off we went.  As we traveled we talked.  We have one of those “what’s said in the truck, stays in the truck” things so it is good to have a place where you can let your hair down (uh, if you’ve ever seen my hairline you know that is metaphorically speaking) and just be guys.

As we neared Marion, he took a turn down Main Street, which was a little odd for going to Sam’s, and before I knew it we were at Cracker Barrel.  That caught me off guard since I thought we were just doing the Sam’s thing. It turns out my bad ear failed to hear the part about, “I’ll buy your breakfast.”  So, hey, the trip went from good to really good. Let’s see…time away with a brother and free breakfast…yup…that works.  We were quickly seated in Cracker Barrel but that is when the quickly ended and it was also when I realized I might be having a couple of “Cracker Barrel moments.”

We waited awhile before a server came by.  He was kind and gracious and so were we.  He took our order and Jeremy and I began to talk.  We talked about this and we talked about that and then, because there was time, we talked about that again.  Finally, after oh, three days, our food came.  It really wasn’t too big of a deal because I was spending time with a friend, and I was studying for a sermon on patience and needed some practice.  But I did say to Jeremy, pointing at the food, “I was just about to have to work on my patience.”  He smiled and said, “Hey, you got some place to go?” Ah…Cracker Barrel moment number one. Enjoy the moment.  Truth was there was nothing I was going to do that was more important than just visiting with a friend.  Someone once said that one of the most spiritual things we can do is take a nap.  Number two on that list might be visiting with a Christian brother. Check.

Cracker Barrel moment number two happened a few minutes later.  After we were seated for a few minutes an older couple came in and sat down nearby.  Their server was there immediately.  I think I frowned. Their food came (before ours…I might have frowned) and then shortly after, our own breakfast feast arrived.  Judy was not around so I order the works.  Then it happened.  A young man walked in and was seated close to the older couple.  I watched as the young man went over to the older man, excused himself for interrupting, said something.  They shook hands and the young man returned to his table.

The older couple left first and then Jeremy and I stood to leave too.  I stopped at the table of the young man and asked, “I saw you go over and talk to that older man.  What was that about?”  I really already knew.  The young man said, “He was a veteran I was thanking him for his service.”  Yup…I was right.  The older gentleman had a ball cap on and it identified him as a veteran. I said, “Well, thank you for thanking him for his service.  That was very kind.”  I don’t know who his Momma was, but she sure did a good job raising him.

Two Cracker Barrel moments—two exact opposite lessons yet both valuable.  Live for the moment…whatever is next can probably wait and always, and I mean always, take the opportunity to do the right thing…like thanking a veteran.  I left Cracker Barrel a lot fuller that day…pun intended. We enjoyed a good meal, some great fellowship, and had a blessing thrown in for dessert.

Tucked away in one of those books of the Bible that we rarely read is a verse that says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” I think my visit to Cracker Barrel hit on a couple of those.  None of us know which day will be our last day but it is good to know the One who does. Until that time we need our Cracker Barrel moments to remind us we are still learning and that “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life

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

Hi Grits family- Judy and I are out of pocket for the next four days, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

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.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sweet Tea

Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness.” John 1:16

Sweet tea…oh yes, the drink of the south.  I was raised in the deep south and both food and drink were especially important.  To most southerners, including me, food was never just food, it was the great comforter—the billboard along the highway of life that said, “it’s gonna be ok.”  Growing up, whenever I was sad or happy or maybe a little blue—food was my friend.  And what is good food without something good to wash it down? And down south…that has to be “sweet tea.”  For clarity sweet tea is not brownish, tan water with some sugar or sweetener thrown in.  No, sweet tea is brewed, a southern tradition and creation, and when it is done right, well, it’s down right heavenly.  When it is done wrong, you end up with sweet brown water.

Sweet tea is not like wine.  I’ve heard that wine needs time to age to become fine.  That is not true with southern sweet tea.  You see good, sweet tea has a short life span.  Some would say hours, but no true southerner would say days.  If sweet tea is done right it turns to syrup overnight.  Leave a pitcher in the refrigerator till the next day and it becomes a whole different animal.  Good sweet tea is meant to be drank in the moment.  You may well sip it, but don’t take too long.

I discovered another kind of sweet tea from another part of the world.  When the folks in West Africa drink their version of sweet tea, well, it is an event.  First, it is served hot and not cold. Second, it is strong…VERY strong.  They brew their tea in a very small pot, with a little water, a lot of tea and over a small coal fired burner.  When it comes to a strong boil, they add boatloads of sugar…and I am not kidding.  They scoop and scoop and scoop some more.  The end result is one of the strongest and sweetest things you can imagine.  Trust me, if you weren’t diabetic before you started, you will be by the time you finish. They say their tea is sweet like life and bitter like death.

The way they present their tea is also special.  The host will go to great lengths (no pun intended) to pour his or her tea from pot to cup or glass from great heights.  The distance a person can pour their tea and not miss the cup is almost a matter of national pride.  A famous one-liner is, “I can pour my tea from the back of a camel on a very windy day.”  It is a cultural thing…it is a people thing.  You see good sweet tea does that.  It brings people together.  Whether it is a front porch in South Georgia, or a mat spread on the sands of the Sahara, tea…sweet tea, brings people together.

Today, in a time when there seems to be so much to pull us apart, maybe we all just need to sit down and have a good glass of sweet tea. For our friends in West Africa it is just a necessity.  Go see someone and tea will be offered and, tea will be shared.  It builds relationships, it opens the door of communication.  Maybe that is one reason why my Momma and Daddy shared a cup of coffee every day when he came home from work.  Maybe that is the reason we should do the same.  Often when people talk instead of yelling, things change.  It is true in government and it is true in church and it is true in homes.

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why things are so fragmented today and I’m also sure that a glass of sweet tea, no matter how good, won’t solve everything. However, I do know something that might.  That is a couple of teaspoons of grace.  Just like sugar tames the bitterness of the tea, so grace can tame a temper or temper a difficult situation.  Tempered steel is made stronger by the process of applying heat. In the same way, relationships and people are made stronger by applying grace. And we have grace to share because the Bible says that from His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.

So, when’s the last time you just sat down with a friend, or an adversary for that matter, and had some good, sweet tea mixed with a little grace?  You might be surprised to learn that the gulf between the both of you is not as great as you think.  It is certainly not so wide that grace can’t span the gap and trust me, no, trust Him—there is always grace enough.  As always, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne