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

The Best Part

Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Second Corinthians 12:9a

I like it straight black—plus nothing, minus nothing.  Coffee has long been a part of my life.  It all started when I was growing up.  The name Taylor and the word coffee have gone together for a long, long time.  I can remember every day my Daddy would get home from work about 4:00 in the afternoon. He carpooled with three other men and just like clockwork they would pull up and he would get out.  It was a certainty.  The other certainty was the coffee.  Momma would have a fresh pot percolating on the stove and perfectly timed to be ready when he got home.  She would meet him in the yard, and they would share the day and have a cup of coffee.

He didn’t just drink coffee then either.  It was not unusual for him to say, “Dewayne, go get me a cup of coffee.”  The please was implied and it seemed there was always a pot on the stove.  One time there wasn’t so I improvised.  I didn’t understand the ins and outs of coffee making, so I just spooned in some coffee grounds in the cup and added some lukewarm water.  That day I learned how not to make coffee!  As I remember it, Daddy liked his coffee with sugar and cream and always drank it from one of those thick Victor coffee cups made after World War II.  It didn’t hold much but it was a good cup to drink from.

I can’t even remember not drinking coffee though I can remember Momma telling me about coffee stunting my growth.  Since I ended up on the shorter side, she must have been telling the truth.  And, like my Daddy, I drank mine with sugar and cream—lots of sugar and lots of cream.  Eventually I switched to a powered creamer called Cremora along with a hefty dose of artificial sweetener.  Somewhere along the road they said that Cremora was bad for you, so after much consternation I went to having my coffee with just the sweetener—three packs please.  It was so sweet it would make you pucker.

Well, you know how it goes.  They (whoever they are) then determined that the sweetener was bad for you, too.  I talked it over with the guys at work and one of them said, “If you will drink coffee black for three weeks, you’ll never drink it any other way.”  Well, I did, and he was right.  Ever since then, I drink my coffee strong and straight black.  And the amazing part is for the first time I began to taste the coffee and not the stuff I added to it. It was just about then I began to understand the Folger’s commercial that said, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.”  I take one exception to that though—it is always best to wake up—breathing.

I think if I learned anything from my coffee journey it was that sometimes more is just more.  It seems most of us are tempted to add something to whatever we are doing at the time.  Have a great recipe—we are tempted to add this or that.  Have a truck pretty tricked out?  Well, hey, why not add one more thing?  I know my office is stuffed to the gills with stuff from all over the world but sometimes, well, more is just more.  Instead of seeing things, you start seeing a wall full of stuff. I have a box on the floor in my church office.  It is full of things that I’ve decided can go home…the problem is it has been there for, uh, several months.

Now one thing we must be careful not to mess with is God’s grace.  It is fine just the way it is.  When you start messing with grace you end up with something that is not very “gracey and when something is not very “gracey” it loses it “graciness” and that is never a good thing.  I love the fact that God got it right from the start.  There has never been a grace 2.0 because version 1 was just exactly right.

When it comes to God stuff, it seems we want to make it harder and more complex than it really is.  Grace is enough. That’s why I like the first part of Second Corinthians 12:9 that says, “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Boom…perfection.

Well, I think I’ll have a cup of straight black coffee a little later and I think I’ll rewrite that Folger’s jingle to say, “The best part of waking up is Jesus in your cup.”  It doesn’t get any better than that. Just knowing Him makes it worthwhile…because always, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful

“Five Guys” Grace

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 was a stroke of accidental brilliance and it all started in 1986. Jerry and Janie Murrell offered some advice to Jerry’s four younger brothers. They simply said, “Go to college or start a business.”  They decided on the business route and started a restaurant in Virginia called “Five Guys Burgers and Fries.”  And like they say, “The rest is history.”  Today there are 1,500 locations and 1,500 more on the drawing board.  Their sales pitch is “nothing but fresh beef and nothing but fries cooked in 100% peanut oil.  There are no freezers in the joint only coolers.”

Well, all that is nice but that is not what I like about Five Guys.  I mean they serve one mean burger, and their fries are the best of any national chain but that’s not what grabbed me.  So, here’s the deal. I walk in and order a small cheeseburger.  “What” you say?  Yup you heard right. The reason I order a small cheeseburger is because it is big…really big.  But it gets better.  The guy at the counter says, “What do you want on that cheeseburger?”  And here is when it gets really good.  I look up at the sign and there are probably 20 or 25 topping for the burger.  And get ready.  They are all free.

Did I just say “free?”  Yes sir, I did.  You can have everything from a tomato to a grilled mushroom and the hits just keep on coming.  No extra charge.  Amazing.  The best part is that it is genuinely good food.  Granted burgers and fries for most men are its own food group but you gotta love one loaded beyond words.  But wait, it is gonna get better.

The guy at the counter says, “You want fries with that burger?”  Hello? Do hens lay eggs? Do preachers eat fried chicken? Do southerners eat grits? “Yes, sir, I want fries” I answer.  So, I order a small fry. “What” you say? Yup you heard right.  The reason I order a small fry is man-food heaven.  So, as you watch, they fill a small cup full of fries.  Are you listening? They put the cup in the bag and then they get this scoop the size of a small shovel and dump a full load in the bag.  Wait. Then he gets another half scoop and dumps that in.  Can someone say, “Hallelujah!” Order a small and get a “boat load” for no extra charge.  Holy moley!

But wait…the guy is saying something else.  “Hey dude, do you want a shake with that?” Ok, by now I am drooling all over my shirt.  “Well sure” I respond.  He says, “What kind?”  I look at the sign and there it is.  Heaven.  It says, “milk shakes…all mix-ins are free.” “What?” I said.  “You mean I can have a chocolate, banana, strawberry, tutti-frutti, peanut, marshmallow milkshake with sprinkles on top.” “Yup” he said “all at no extra charge.”!  Excuse me while I wipe my mouth.

So what amazes me about Five Guys is, are you ready, their lavishness.  Their burgers, their fries, their milkshakes are all lavishly done.  They don’t give you a little of anything.  They pour it on, dump it on and then do it again.  Just like God and His grace.  Paul talks about it in Ephesians 1:7-8.  He says we have redemption though His death, the forgiveness of all our sins (someone say hallelujah) and all because of His grace that He lavished on us.  That means He pours it on, pours it on again and then just keeps pouring.  It is amazing grace because of the quality and the quantity.

I can just imagine stepping up to God’s counter and He says, “What do you need, son?” I like it when He calls me “son.” And I explain how this world is a hot mess, how I have made a mess of everything in my life and how I am sure I can’t fix it. Then I would tell Him I could sure use a little grace.  He would smile and say, “Son, I don’t do anything little, especially grace.”  And then He would begin to pour it on. To borrow from Luke 6:38 where Jesus speaks about giving, the Book says, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” It’s true about giving but it is also true when we need grace.  It is what lavish looks like.

So as soon as you can go to “Five Guys.” Be sure and order small because you are going to get big.  Order all the toppings you want on your burger, all the mix-ins you want in your shake and let them take care of the fries.  You will leave amazed at their lavishness.  But all that just pales to God’s amazing grace.  Just walk up to the counter and tell Him what you need and get ready.  He is going to pour—no, He is gonna dump— grace all over you.  And, like grace, you are gonna be amazed.  That’s why we can just sit back and rest in Him.  With that kind of grace, you know He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

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 must 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 downright 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 final 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

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

Corned Beef Hash

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?” Luke 11:11

We were close friends from the start.  Although I was too young to remember, I think it must be true.  I think my very first word must have been…wait for it…”food”.  Then I think my first sentence was, “I’m hungry.”  I’m trying to say that food and I go way back and now I’m an expert on all things food.  Well, wait, maybe not all things.  You see I was raised on good, common food.  Our menu included things like meatloaf and egg salad sandwiches (aka Easter egg salad sandwiches).  There were some things that Momma cooked up, that to a kid, were kinda hard to swallow…no pun intended.  One of those things was tripe (aka cow’s stomach). We called it the “eternal meat” because it was like chewing rubber.  Take one big bite and two weeks later you swallowed.  Definitely-not my favorite.

However, one of the best things that Mama cooked was something called corned beef hash. For that she would cook up some potatoes and then add some corned beef.  I’m not sure why they call it corned beef but I don’t think it has anything to do with corn.  At any rate…it was one of my favorites…well, sorta.  You see, there was a trick to this corned beef thing and Momma knew it and…I knew it.

In the world of Momma’s corned beef there were really two kinds—and they were worlds apart.  First there was fried corned beef hash and then there was boiled corned beef hash.  The fried hash was just as it sounds.  Momma would first fry up some home fried potatoes.  These, friend, are what potatoes were made for…crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  And if they happened to be fried in lard—well, that was even better.  Then, she would add the corned beef and well, it was pretty much heaven.  I always liked mine smothered in ketchup.  But sometimes she would trick me.  I would ask what was for supper and she would say, “corned beef hash” and for me that had to mean fried because that was the only way it was supposed to be.   It’s kinda like grits—salt, pepper and butter are the only way grits can be grits.

But then, she had an ace up her sleeve.  Sometimes, she made boiled corned beef hash.  That involved boiling and (in my opinion) wasting a pot full of potatoes.  She boiled them till they were almost like mush.  Then she would add the corned beef to the pot and that was it and let me tell you all the ketchup in the world couldn’t redeem what water had done to what was meant to be fried.  I’m still not sure why she fried most of the time but still boiled others.  All I know I was always disappointed because when it comes to corned beef hash—fried always topped boiled.

With some things one way always tops another and that’s how it is with corned beef hash. And never is that truer than when it comes to God and religion.  People today get confused.  You see, God is God and religion is mankind’s frail attempt to reach God.  Try as you like, the only way to know God is by knowing His Son Jesus.  And that’s really cool because His way is a sure deal and man’s way is a sure failure.  Chances are you know someone who was or is totally disappointed in religion and I suppose some folks would speak of their disappointment in God.  But when we understand who He is and what He wants to do for us—that disappointment fades.

Like I said I was always disappointed when Momma boiled something that was clearly meant to be fried. And I’ve been around the church world long enough to know that religion always disappoints but God never does.  I’m learning to trust Him and then believe Him even when that means things didn’t turn out the way I wanted or hoped.  His way is the better way.  If I don’t see it now…I will later.

One time Jesus was talking about prayer and said that a father would never give a snake to his son who asked for a piece of fish.  Nope…not gonna happen.  With God the fried things are always fried and even when we get boiled hash…well, we can trust that at the time, that is the best thing for us.  I like that sacred assurance just like I know, I know, that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Steak and Shake

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville, and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten-year-old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID, and a broken economy changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in now we have the new Steak and Shake.

Now at almost every location, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touchscreens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different, and I loved it.

I am sure the shortage of workers is at least partially responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for almost three years and some of you have been here for that whole time— “He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Bread, Potatoes and Pecan Pie

The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4b

It came in the mail.  It was an advertisement, an offer really, to join a program that would not only help me control my diabetes but to reverse it.  If everything went according to plan, I could come off both of my diabetic meds and lose the “I’m diabetic” label.  There were two more things.  First, thanks to my insurance program, it would be provided to me at absolutely no cost to me.  I’m sure it is costing my insurance plenty, but the price for me was paid in full…hmmm, can someone else besides me see a parallel there.  Can someone say, grace, mercy, and Jesus?

The second thing was that the program would provide several things they called sensors…I call them gadgets.  First, there was one of those totally cool glucose monitors that you wear and through your smartphone it tells on the fly what your sugar level is.  Second, was a Garmin activity tracker that tells you all kind of stuff…more on that in a later story.  Third, was a scale that not only tells you your weight but also how much body fat you have.  This one, for obvious reasons, was not one of my favorites. Number four on the list was a meter that tells me if I have too many ketones.  I’m not sure what they do or what they are, but I know you don’t want too many of them.  Finally, there was a blood pressure “taker thinger” and it does just what it says.  What also made the cool list is the fact that all these things talk to an application on my phone and all that information is compiled and it tells me and them if I am failing or succeeding.

So, there you go.  No diabetes, no cost, lots of gadgets and only one problem.  When I talked to the nice lady on the phone, she told me there wouldn’t be a lot of weird food like tofu or jellyfish eggs.  What she didn’t tell me was that there wouldn’t be any really good food on the program either.  Well, to be fair, that is not totally true.  In fact, there are a lot of foods that I can eat and some a southern boy like me even like but there was no bread, no potatoes, no anything that had carbohydrates in them—and that is about every good thing besides meat and eggs.  Hmmm…we have a problem.

Now all this is made worse by the fact that I have my sugar 100% under control.  I turned the sweets thing almost totally off and cut way back on the starchy stuff and my sugar quickly plummeted.  Thank you, sir…mission accomplished…but not quite.  You see, if you remember my new friends want me to get off medicine. However to get off the medicine, I have to give up a whole category of stuff that I love and have loved all my life.  The problem is I am quite content to take a couple of pills if they will allow me to eat some of my favorites.  I am quite willing to let the two, my self-control and my medicine, work together.  Honestly, it would probably be better for me to ditch the medicines but no bread, no potatoes, and worst of all, no, none, never pecan pie.  What?

I think this is just a human nature thing and as you know our human nature can get us in trouble.  Another name for our human nature is our sinful nature and our sinful nature wants us to sin—maybe not a whole lot but at least some of our favorites.  We usually think the price is worth it.  So, we control this and control that but often refuse to take the giant leap into total surrender.  I know there is a difference between indulging in bread and lust or potatoes and anger but the principle is the same.  We want what we want—even if the price is high and it is.

I’m not sure what I’m going to do about this new thing I’m enrolled in.  I think I am going to try and find a place somewhere in the middle.  I know that isn’t the best solution but regardless that is probably where I will land.  But hear me clearly—that does not work with sin.  With sin the best thing you can do is run fast and hard in the opposite direction.  Remember this…sin will always win, and it will take you further and cost you more than you think.  That is why our Father sent His Son, that is why the Son died and resurrected and that is why we need Him to rescue and save us.

Listen, all the cool sin gadgets in the world aren’t worth what they cost in the end.  It will cost you a whole lot more than a pile of mashed potatoes.  Just remember, what you can’t do on your own, you can do with Him. 1 John 4:4b says, “The One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”  In other words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Bare Shelves and God’s Faithfulness

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

One of the things (among at least two billion) that was weird about the time during and since COVID was the various shortages that we experienced. Some were expected and some were not. It really was (and still is) a strange sensation to go to the store and find everyday things not there every day. Oh, and did I mention inflation? It seemed like the land of plenty had become something else.

I’m 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. I remember sometime last year Judy and I went to the park for a walk (good idea–walk with your wife…she cooks food) and then I agreed to go with her to WalMart to get a few items.

So, we get to the store and there was in fact plenty of food there. For sure some items were sold out (toilet paper—remember that? Still have a supply stashed?) but others were plenteous. The cookie isle was hard hit but strangely the broccoli wasn’t. But the shocker was when I got to the bread isle it was empty…bare. For a southern boy who was raised to believe that bread is its own food group, well, that was a crisis of Biblical proportions.

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. The Bible describes manna 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—and us—something. They couldn’t hoard (can someone say toilet paper?) 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 Kreme’s” all around and they would pick them up and God would say, “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. Can you imagine? As Jesus followers, I think we can and should. We may not have manna laying around today, but we do have the faithfulness of that same God. He takes care of His kids. You can bank on it.

Jesus talked about this in the Bible when He said, “So don’t worry, saying, What will we eat? or what will we drink? or what will we wear? For [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Let that soak in.  We don’t have to worry because we have a Dearest Daddy who loves us and cares for us.  Period.

So, as we reflect on the past and present, and look forward to the days to come, we can rest in the blessed assurance that God will be there. We need to remember every time there is a need met or a blessing given, 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. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, Trials

Liver Anyone?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.” James 1:5b

They were laying there taking a bath in rich, brown gravy.  Well, we had to make a trip to the South when my brother died.  He lived where I was raised, Jacksonville, Florida and was laid to rest next to our Daddy and Momma.  Well, if you know anything about Florida, you know that sitting right north is Georgia and you know the quickest way to Florida, and Disney World, is down Interstate 75.  Finally, and we are going somewhere…no pun intended…if you go down Interstate 75 to Florida you must go through Valdosta, Georgia.

As I understand it, there are only two Valdosta’s in the whole world…one in Georgia and one in Italy. Well, Judy was raised in the one in Georgia and that is where we were married so I think you could say that Valdosta is kinda home for us.  Well, we are big fans of southern cooking and there is a place in Valdosta called the Old Time Country Buffet and it has become a favorite of ours.  So, a couple from our church was visiting in South Florida and we managed to meet them on our way to Jacksonville in Valdosta.  They were offering a free lunch and a hug—both sounded really good.

So, we met at the buffet and before long I was introducing them to everything from cream corn to collards to fried chicken.  As I circled the buffet, I saw something that looked good…real good. It was a pan full of rich brown gravy and swimming in the gravy were thick slices of beef.  I had to have some.  I stabbed a couple of pieces of beef, spooned up some gravy, both for the meat and my mashed potatoes and moved on.  Things were good and they were about to be better…or so I thought.

I got back to the table, showed my plate to my friends and dove in. One of the first stops on the grand tour of my “heaped high” plate was the beef and gravy. It was tender and looked delicious and without hesitation I took a nice, big bite.  Well, immediately I thought to myself, “Hmmm, maybe beef with gravy isn’t their specialty.” It had a twang to it that I thought tasted familiar. I couldn’t quite identify it, so I took another bite and it just wasn’t good…and then I remembered.  That strange twang was not beef…it was liver…beef liver.

There are only a few things in the food world that I don’t like, but liver is definitely one of them. Yuck. Gross. I realized I had been tricked…fooled…betrayed.  Well, needless to say, that was the end of the liver.  I always try to clean my plate…usually motivated by the memory of starving kids in Africa…but this was one time the liver was heading to the trash.  Not even guilt could force me to eat this beef wanna be.

I told the people at the table how I thought it was one thing and it turned out to be something else and now…I am telling you.  It may have looked like beef but all the looks in the world wasn’t gonna change its true identity…its true taste. There was probably a sign that properly identified this “sheep in wolves clothing” but my eyes were on the pool of gravy and not the little sign.

Now I know and you know that this doesn’t just happen at buffets.  The truth is our world is filled with things that seem to be one thing and in fact are something totally different. Now if we take the time and look closely, hints of truth are usually all around but we too often see what we want see.  What we need to see is the truth.  So, the next time you are tempted to take the plunge, be sure and know what you are diving into.  Before you throw away a marriage and family, before you toss out your character, before you take a swim in the pool of regret…take the time to evaluate and count the cost.

Jesus said one time that it is foolish for a man to start building a tower before counting the cost.  After all, think how foolish he would look if he started it and couldn’t finish it…sorta like stabbing beef and getting liver.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, said that if we lack wisdom, all we need to do is ask God and He will gladly give us what we need. Beef or liver—your choice but remember this—even when we mess up God will be there to help us.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Don’t Forget the Dasher

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13

I churned and churned and then I churned some more.  It was 1976 and it was a big year for sure.  America celebrated her 200th birthday and on June the 26th, my wife Judy and I were married. I was in the Air Force stationed at Moody Air Force Base and she was a cute Georgia peach. We sealed the deal on a hot, and I do mean hot, Georgia afternoon.  After our honeymoon in Florida, we settled into our apartment in Valdosta, Georgia.  We lived in a nice complex that came complete with a swimming pool. We were living high on the hog…especially when you considered I was a sergeant in the military. Even with that, as would become a trademark of our lives, God was good to us.

Shortly after we were married, on another of those hot Georgia afternoons, we decided to invite Roy Smith Allen, Judy’s Daddy over for supper.  I can’t remember what Judy cooked but I am sure it was good. What I do remember is what we had for dessert—homemade ice cream. After dinner was done, Roy Smith Allen and I retired to the patio so I could churn the ice cream.  I was a bit nervous because quite frankly, Roy Smith Allen could be a bit intimidating.  He was a real good guy and he definitely had taken a shine to me—but still—he was Roy Smith Allen.

Well, Judy mixed up the ice cream recipe and before long I was seated beside the churn, churning away.  This wasn’t one of those electric mixers, no, this was the real deal, one of those “you gotta work for your ice cream”, mixers.  So Roy Smith Allen and I sat there and made casual conversation while I churned. This went on for quite a while and I realized that the ice cream was taking a long time to freeze. I was churning but it wasn’t making.  After about thirty minutes or so, the inevitable happened.  Roy Smith Allen said, “Son, what’s wrong with that ice cream?”  Well truth be known I didn’t have a clue. We added some more ice and added some more rock salt but no matter what we did…it just wasn’t freezing.

Just about then, Roy Smith Allen, asked a question. “Boy,” he said, “you did put the dasher in…didn’t you?” Dasher…I knew that was town near Valdosta, I knew that someone who was in a hurry was called that, and I even knew it was supposed to go in the ice cream churn to stir up the ice cream.  What I didn’t know was if I had put it in.  I had a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I hadn’t. Bummer. This was something that Roy Smith Allen wouldn’t forget and wouldn’t keep to himself.

Well, I stopped churning and removed the crank thing from the churn and then removed the top from the thing that held the mix.  There was no dasher. Shoot. Well, I don’t remember what Roy Smith Allen said but I am sure it involved a couple of “Son’s” and a couple of “Boy’s.”  Well by now I was thoroughly embarrassed as I put the dasher in and thankfully within just a few minutes we had ice cream.  Turned out the mix was so cold; it was more than ready to cooperate and freeze.  So, it all turned out delicious in the end and trust me, I never forgot again to put the dasher in and I’m sure Roy Smith Allen didn’t forget about the time I did.

When it comes to making ice cream several things are really important.  The ice, the salt, and the dasher.  Leave those out and you will be drinking sweet milk instead of eating ice cream.  And guess what?  There are more than a few things that are really important in life.  You probably have your own list, but mine would definitely include God, love, and people.  God is like the dasher…He makes life happen.  Love is like the ice and salt. It makes the conditions right for making life sweet and creamy.  Oh, and people, well, like ice cream, life is better if we have someone to share it with.

So, as we journey down this road called life, make your list, check it twice, and make sure it is a list with things worth having. And might I add, God, love, and people is a great place to start to your list. When Paul was writing to the church in Corinth, he shared one of his lists and it included three things…faith, hope and love.  And the greatest was love.  Love might well be the dasher of life because the Bible also says, “God is love.”  And somewhere I bet it says, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Bad Blood – Sugar

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires.” 1 Peter 1:14

Is there a pill for that? Well, it’s time to write about diabetes, falling off the wagon and trying to climb back on.  What’s the old saying, “Same song, second (or third) verse?” So, a while back, I stopped watching what I was eating and justified it with another old adage, “Ignorance is bliss.”  I would eat my way through just about anything unhealthy with the comfort of what you don’t know won’t hurt you…wait, is that my third adage? Guess what?  Ain’t so. As I rolled through Thanksgiving and right into Jingle Bells, I had the sneaking suspicion that things weren’t well in the blood sugar arena.

Is there a pill for that?

Bro. D

You need to know a couple of things.  Judy was cooking healthy, and I faithfully took my diabetes medicines, but the bottom line was I was taking in way too may carbs, and a lot of sugar, for the medicine to work.  Adding to my demise was the fact that I stopped walking in early November when the weather changed.  Can someone say, “Recipe for disaster?”  Well, I finally got my courage up and made a doctor’s appointment and scheduled some tests at the laboratory to determine where I was.  Well, where I was …was in deep weeds.

When your doctor, I call him Doc, calls you a couple of days before Christmas, you know it probably isn’t to wish you Merry Christmas.  We are friends, and he was his normal, cordial self and then he said, “Well, preacher, I got your lab results back.”  At that moment I knew I was busted…and busted good. I was going to give you the numbers, but I chickened out at the last minute.  Let’s just say they were not good—just a few miles down the road from disaster.  Well, he suggested I watch the sugar and carbs and I told him I would try.  Then, I had a cookie.

Like all good sugar addicts, I kept right on munching my treats.  But one thing I did do was set a “drop-dead” date.  It was Thursday, January 12th. I woke up that morning, dusted off my trusty sugar testing kit and, well, the news was worse than before. Ouch…but it was enough to cause me to start walking “the straight and narrow.”  Oh no, another adage.

Well, Sunday morning, I was talking with a friend about blood sugar and stuff—you know typical church talk. Smile.  I said something like this, “I want a pill that will allow me to eat all the bad stuff and still manage my sugar.”  Yeah, right.  That’s what we all want.  Live poorly with no consequences.  You might as well go hunting unicorns.  And then it hit me.  That is exactly the kind of god we want.  We want a god that winks at our sin, our bad choices and allows us to mosey on our way.  Well, there might be a god for that but it sure isn’t the real God.

You see, God loves us way too much to ever, ever leave us where we are.  He knows full well the cost and consequences of bad choices and sin and He just won’t, can’t leave us there.  No, there isn’t a pill to cover (or at least fully cover) your bad eating habits and there isn’t a god (not a real God) who will let you stay in your mess.  And guess what? Doing the right thing is a good thing.

After a couple of weeks of eating right and exercising, my blood sugar is way good.  And a path of obedience (His will always leads down the path to fewer regrets and small consequences) is always good…way good.  So, let me encourage you to start today to do the right thing…the God thing. His Word says, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires.” That’s good advice. You will find that He will be there to help you make right choices.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne