Posted in Family, food, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

“Eat Mor Chikin”

The Lord does not delay His promise, as some understand delay, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish but all to come to repentance.”  2 Peter 3:9

It should be every church’s goal.  Y’all know I am partial to food.  We have been friends for a long time.  I think I was probably one of those kids that was born with a craving for homemade mac and cheese with fried chicken.  “Hey mom, can we skip the milk and go straight for the grease and carbs?”  Yup, sounds like me.  One of my favorite fast-food places is Chick-fil-A. Have you ever noticed something unusual about this place?  Well, let me help you…there is always a line.  Period.

It seems that no matter what time you go by to grab your chicken fix, people are lined up and being served.  If you have ever been to one, you also know it is a very unusual place.  First, the food is really good.  Their chicken, mac and cheese, milk shakes, waffle fries—even their salads are off the scale.  Now about their salads…I have to take that on word of mouth since I avoid anything green! Every time I see the commercial for their creamy mac and cheese, I start drooling.  One day, when the line isn’t insanely long, I’m going to get some.  But the bottom line is that they make sure they have something to sell and they sell lots.

However, the really big thing…even bigger than their food…is their service.  I have never seen a friendlier team of employees.  Every person who works for them seems to be genuinely glad to work there and genuinely glad that I stopped in.  Every time I have stopped, I have felt like I was the most important customer in the place.  One time at a Chick-fil-A at the airport the person who waited on me wasn’t quite up to par, but truth be known they are still far and above most places. And, it doesn’t stop there.

Remember I mentioned those long lines?  It is just amazing how organized they are in processing their customer’s orders. In the drive thru, they have employees out in the parking lot taking orders even before the customers get to the window.  They value their customer’s time and prove it by making sure they don’t have to wait any longer than absolutely necessary. By the way, it is a Christian based company and a lot of their business principles are straight from the Bible. People first. And, have you noticed that they choose to be closed on Sundays?  Do you know why?  God first.  Love God…love people.

All of this caused me to wonder something.  What if, we, the Church, did business like Chick-fil-A?  What if we “marketed” our message like they market their products?  What we have to offer is the best news ever—the Gospel or Good News that broken people can be healed—that forgiveness is available for any man, woman or child who is willing to place their trust in what Jesus has done.  I mean that is valuable.  Chick-fil-A believes in their product, but do we really believe in ours?  I think we should.

What if every person who came through our doors felt like they were the most important person in the building?  What is every person felt they were valued—both by God and by the church regulars?  You can take it to the bank that God indeed values every person regardless of race, social status, or sin list.  He is not willing that any should perish but that all should be redeemed.  It says it in the Book.  Perhaps the most important working team (think committee) in the church is the hospitality team.  Their job—to make every person feel welcomed, accepted, and wanted.  Yup…that would work.

Well, I do like a good chicken sandwich and a good helping of mac and cheese, but I love the way these folks do business.  I do think it should be the goal of every local church to love God…love people and make it obvious that is what we are about. The God we serve is worthy of more than “good enough”…He deserves our very best. Why? Because He gave His very best for us.  He is for us and through Him anything and everything within His will and purpose is possible.  In these days we have an opportunity to show off our love for God and others.  It can happen…it should happen…because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Cooking Lesson 101

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:7

It looked like a chocolate mud puddle…or worse. Well, I am a firm believer that God wires people in different ways. Some people are gifted in music, some in speaking; some are mechanically minded while others are whizzes at math.  It is no wonder why the Bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

Now if you are a regular Grits reader you know that I am a “foody.” I am blessed to have a wife who can cook very well. As a pastor at a church, one of my favorite things is when we decide to have a potluck. A potluck is when all the families bring a dish or two or three and we all share. At my church, a potluck doesn’t involve luck at all—you know it is good to be good.  I guess I appreciate good cooks so much because I am not one.  If cooking is a gift, I was in the wrong line when the gifts were distributed.  Let me explain.

One day I decided I wanted something sweet to eat.  I looked in the pantry and, in the refrigerator, but came up empty handed. I looked in the kitchen cabinets and found several boxed mixes.  There were two or three for cakes and one for brownies.  As my mind thought of sweet, gooey brownies–it was a done deal. I read the box and found I needed several ingredients–the mix–check; oil–check; water–check and two eggs–uh, no eggs.

I asked Judy what would happen if I skipped the eggs–she simply said— “It won’t work.”  She said something about a chemical reaction and the brownies being as flat as a pancake, but my mind had one thought–sweet, gooey brownies. I decided to press forward.  In fact, I even added more oil, more water, and some heavy whipping cream just for good measure.  After all, doesn’t more make everything better?  Who cares if it has nothing to do with brownies?

Well, I put them in the oven and set the timer for about twenty-five minutes.  Soon the timer was going off and I opened the door and peeked inside expecting a pan of delicious brownies.  What I found was anything but.  In fact, it resembled an oil slick…the kind you see when a tanker spills its cargo. It was some sort of goo—I guess a combination of pools of the oil, a black slime in the middle and a hard edge all around.  I guess that thing about the chemical reaction was right. Instead of ending up with a nice gooey brownie I ended up with a gooey mess.  It turned out that I wasted all those ingredients and twenty-five minutes of electricity.

So, what is the moral of the story?  Well, for one there is a reason why there is something called a recipe.  Someone smarter than me determined what it takes to make a delicious brownie and they were kind enough to share their wisdom.  If the recipe calls for eggs–it needs eggs.  I don’t know what the eggs do but I do know it does something important.  Someone on the internet suggested you could use Diet Coke instead of eggs.  I don’t know if that is true or not and I am not going to try and find out.  I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on Judy can cook the brownies and I will remain the eater in the family.

Oh, by the way, that following the recipe thing applies to God also.  You see, the greatest “cookbook” for a successful and purposeful life is the Bible. It is filled with recipe after recipe for a life that is truly worth living and it all starts with trusting and having faith in God.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible, a guy named Jeremiah said, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” He knew what we need to know…God is reliable.

Oh, and when the Bible says that Jesus is the one essential ingredient to our salvation–it means it.  I don’t know if Diet Coke will replace eggs, but I do know nothing can replace Jesus. You can add all the good works you want; add all the church you want and get baptized till you wrinkle but without Jesus—it just won’t work.  It is He and He alone that makes salvation possible.  All our additions will only make a gooey mess out of salvation.  Add the key ingredient and you can’t miss!

Well, for all you brownie lovers out there I hope you learned from my disaster!  Just remember, those ingredients are listed and needed for a reason–it won’t work without them.  And for each of you who are looking for a full life—one with purpose and peace, don’t forget the key and that is Jesus. Go ahead, ask others and ask Him.  You will find He is the real deal.  Need a hand in the kitchen of life? Give God a chance. I’ve found that He is always willing and always there. Even when your life looks like a chocolate mud puddle…or worse…you can have the assurance that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Southern Cuisine – the Real Deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on the Gravy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spilt Milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leftovers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks-Giving Living

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, fear, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Welcome to the Buffet

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

It’s not for everyone…and I didn’t think it was for me.  You see, several years ago my wife Judy and I decided to take the plunge and go on a cruise.  I always wrote cruises off because the thought of being in that small of an area with 4,000 of my closest friends just didn’t sound appealing.  Well, for whatever reason, I finally said yes, and I am so glad that I did.  We had a great time.  If you regularly read Grits, you know we love to travel.  Well, take that, plus good food and entertainment and the fact that somehow it just didn’t seem crowded and well, it was fun.

I had always heard that the food was plentiful and incredible, and it really was.  All you wanted, when you wanted and all included.  When you bought your ticket, all the perks were thrown in and I was determined to make sure I took advantage of them all.  They say the average person gains like five pounds on a cruise and I am pretty sure I can testify to that.

Now let me ask you question.  Wouldn’t it have been crazy if I had chosen not to take advantage of all that had already been paid for?  Wouldn’t it have been crazy if I had bought cans of sardines and cases of crackers on board to eat instead?  Well trust me, it would have. The crazy part is that too often we ignore the wonderful blessings that God gives us as His children.

I received an email years ago and it told how Bill Bright, a great teacher and leader, used to tell the story of a man who carefully saved his money until he was finally able to travel on a beautiful cruise ship. It was all he could do just to save enough to buy his ticket. Thinking he wouldn’t have enough money to buy meals in the ship’s fine dining room, he decided to take along some cheese and crackers for food.

For several days he sat in his cabin, watching the stewards go by with carts full of luscious lobster, prime rib, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer. He reached out and grabbed one of the stewards by the arm and begged him for a plate of food. “Please, help me. I’ll go to work; I’ll scrub the deck. I’ll do anything to get something to eat. My cheese and crackers are turning stale, and I’m starving to death.”

“But, sir,” the steward replied, “don’t you know? Your food comes with your ticket.”

Sadly, many Christians live their life the way this man did on the cruise ship. Rather than embracing and receiving all that God has for them they become satisfied with “cheese and crackers,” living off the scarcity of the world when they could be dining on steak and baked potatoes. Either out of stubbornness or just a lack of knowledge, they don’t allow the Holy Spirit to take control of their lives and produce the luscious fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They choose spiritual poverty over abundant life and scarcity over the joy of enjoying the abundance of their Dearest Daddy.

I’ve discovered that it is too easy to slip into a scarcity mindset when God wants us to have such much more.  And, no, I’m not speaking of things.  Things are just things.  I am speaking of the richness of knowing Creator God—up close and personal. Too often I’ve been satisfied at times with the bare bones of salvation—a hope of heaven for sure but the rest of the time just walking into walls in this life—afraid and seemingly alone. The best day of your life is the day you trust Jesus and second best…well, it is finally figuring out that He is with you and me and will be with us all the way.  It is figuring out, and believing, that…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Just Like That

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

It happened just like that.  Oh, it must have been 30 or more years ago.  I was a young buck in my middle thirties.  Just like now…I liked ice cream…a lot.  So, one day I was reading the latest Reader’s Digest.  In it was an article about food and it happened to mention something.  It said that if you would put your ice cream in the microwave for about ten seconds, it would taste better and creamier.  Well, I said to myself, “If that will make my ice cream taste even better…sign me up.”  So I tried it and guess what? It worked.  The idea is that the microwave, which kinda works from the inside out, would melt the ice crystals in the ice cream thus making it more creamy.  Boom. I was a new devotee.  Just like that the way I enjoyed ice cream changed.  It is kinda odd when you are at someone’s house and you ask them to “nuke” your ice cream but, trust me, it is worth it.

Not quite as far back, I was having lunch with a friend of mine.  I explained to him when I woke up it seemed to take forever for me to really be awake.  Now, granted, I wake up early…really early.  It is not uncommon for me to crawl out of bed at 4.30 am so you might say, “Of course you’re still sleepy…go back to bed for goodness sake.”  Well, that just wasn’t going to work.  My body was sending me conflicting messages…it was done sleeping but I was still sleepy.  Well, he made a suggestion.  He said, “When you wake up and go to your man cave place, turn on every light in the room.”  He said that would send a clear message to my brain…it is time to open those peepers and start living.  Well, I tried it and boom…just like that…it worked.  So, now, every morning I wake up, head to my man cave place, turn on all the lights, and start my day…with a cup of coffee, of course. Amazing…just like that.

Not quite as far back, but still, oh, six or seven years ago, I was watching television and it was a food program.  I think it was the guy with spiky, blonde hair and the cool car.  He goes around and finds all these awesome places to eat.  Now that is a job I could get into. So this guy ended up in a hotdog place.  The discussion soon turned to what do you put on a hotdog when you eat one.  Well, this place thought putting ketchup on a hotdog was the same as the unpardonable sin and a class ten felony.  The hotdog guy said, “The only thing you can put on your dog is mustard. You may put ketchup on your hotdog but we won’t.”  Well, I had been a ketchup and mustard guy forever but I said “I need to try that…who knows?” So that very day I stopped putting ketchup on my hotdog and guess what?  They were right and just like that I changed and put only mustard on my dogs.  Period. None of that red stuff or that chopped up pickle stuff for that matter.  Just like that my dog life changed.

Looking back I am amazed how three bits of information changed three areas of my life—just like that.  And, for whatever reason, there was no going back.  I was all in.  Well, you know me, sometimes I like to think.  I wondered, “How many other areas of my life could or would be changed if I had some information that would influence me?  I think there might be a lot.  And I have a feeling I know just the source of that needed information—the Bible.  God’s Word is filled…from front to back…with truth and it covers so many important areas of life—much more important than hotdogs and ice cream.  So I wonder what would happen if we took His Word at His Word and read it and applied it.  What would happen?  I think we would be impressed and amazed. And the best part, the writer of Psalms said, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

So, the word for today is “nuke” your ice cream and drop the ketchup on your hotdog.  No, not really, it is bigger than that.  Why not spend some time in the Book of all Books and take what you read and let it change your life.  Who knows it might even make your ice cream taste better.  One thing for sure is that you will quickly figure out that life just goes better when you learn and believe that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Counting Blessings!

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” 1 Corinthians 2:9

I looked in the rearview mirror of time and waved goodbye.  Yup…another month had come and gone. I am simply amazed how quickly the days of the calendar have flown by this year.  I know the old adage that the older you get the faster time goes by but this is getting ridiculous. I was joking a couple of several months ago on a radio program that I do on the first of every month and wished the audience a, “Merry Christmas” and just like that well it is almost time.  In fact, if you go to a store…the decorations are out.

So, before I knew it, October was in the rearview mirror.  Some of you who regularly read Grits know that I am a pastor and you might even know that October is Pastor Appreciation Month. I’m not sure who came up with the idea, it was probably Hallmark trying to sell a few more cards, but anyway, “thanks.”  This year for whatever reason was a pretty low key event.  Like everything else I am sure it had something to do with COVID.  I am blessed to serve at a great church so I’m sure it wasn’t on them…in fact, I think it was on me.

The way that I am wired if something doesn’t meet my expectation then I tend to whine (just a little) and shift from grateful to ungrateful. I think this is a carryover from my days as a kid.  If the birthday wasn’t exactly perfect,  if I didn’t get the Christmas present I had begged Santa for, well, you get the idea.  And with ingratitude comes selfishness. Bummer. Now that I am older, much older, I just happen to know the answer to this wart on my soul.  The answer is, get ready, wait for it, counting your blessings.  Boom!

So the other day when I was thinking about what I saw as a lackluster October, well, I just started counting my blessings.  Want the short list?  Though you would never ask.  Here you go: a homemade raisin pie, a fabulous pumpkin gooey butter cake, a bag full of all kinds of goodies, two dozen donuts from Krispy Kreme (those were delivered to the office to share), a dozen big chocolate chip cookies (also at the office), several cards and a couple of gift cards, pizza…also at the office.  Oh and there is meat in my freezer and one of our Sunday school dumped a great card with a generous gift inside. Also, and I’m not sure if this was a pastor thing or just a friend thing, one of my buds at church, who knew I loved historical items, especially from World War II, gave me four slugs that he had dug from a Japanese bunker on Iwo Jima. Holy Moley. And, of course, who could forget a couple of dozen hugs.  Sounds like the twelve days of Christmas, doesn’t it?

So do you see the power of gratitude and the power of counting blessings?  It is a game changing, in your face ingratitude, overcoming, “shoot that thang” weapon that can change your day or maybe your life.  I know I (and probably you too) sometimes feel like God doesn’t deliver like we think He should.  You know, we prayed and He not only didn’t deliver what we wanted…He was late in doing it.  I know.  But if there is a place this gratitude thing works…it is with God.

You see, those Christmases when I didn’t get exactly what I wanted, well, often I got something even better.  Oh, and those birthdays, yup, the same.  Well, with God He often has something better than we could ever dream about…something so good that we look back and go, “wow.”  Paul, the guy who wrote a large part of the New Testament in the Bible, said, “However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him.” And I think Paul was perfectly right.

So today, as you start the day, or end the day, take the time to do a little blessing counting.  Be sure you have your shoes off because you are going to need all your fingers and toes and a few more.  Remember, God loves you and He is not one to withhold…He is one to be generous.  You can count one Him…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne