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

Leftovers and Ruts

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

It’s Friday…turkey again. Well, the big day was a big deal and for most of us it circled around a big meal.  In many cases homes were filled with family and like planes in a landing pattern at the airport, they circled the feast wondering where to land. There were so many choices…it was like Golden Corral had moved into our kitchens.  So, we circled, we landed, and we ate. But there is one tradition that we can’t forget when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Invariably we prepare way too much and that can only mean one thing: leftovers. It is like the feast all over again…like a good ballgame going into overtime.

So, at least around the Taylor tribe there is always a round two.  Sometime after dessert and a nap, we groggily rise from the couch or bed and mosey into the kitchen.  There the plates are retrieved from the refrigerator or maybe just uncovered, and we do it again.  Oh, leftovers, life is sweet indeed.  After everyone has had their fill, again, anything that is left goes back to the refrigerator again.  And, like Lazarus in the Bible, don’t worry they will get resurrected again…and again.

Leftovers are a game a preference.  For some it is game over after the main event, for others there is a round two, a round three and who knows…a round four.  I know for my wife Judy and me the rule seems to be oh, about a week.  Recently she cooked a great dish of baked spaghetti, and it was awesome…not once, not twice but for five days we enjoyed it until the last serving make its way to the microwave.  Oh, and by the way, yup, it was still good, way good. But all good things must come to an end and so it is with leftovers.  Each kitchen master will make the decision when it is time to move from leftovers and makeovers (aka turkey born again) to something new and fresh.  That is a good thing…and in life that is a necessary thing.

As we do life it is often too easy to get stuck and be satisfied with the leftovers…with whatever.  Again, it works for food a few days but eventually what we enjoyed the first day or two can and will be toxic.  The fine line is to know when it is time for something else, something fresh, something new.  In the kitchen we call them leftovers but in life we call them ruts.  Ruts are when we simply do the same thing over and over again because they are easy, they are familiar, they are comfortable.  Well, ruts may be all of that and more, but ruts can be dangerous. Like leftovers left too long on the counter or too long in the refrigerator, ruts can lead to spoilage. Ruts can damage marriages, stifle careers and make relationships staler than two-week-old bread.  Most sadly, spiritual ruts can make God seem out of date, unnecessary, and eventually unwanted.

So, what is the answer to the leftover dilemma.  Well, perhaps we should follow the advice of the guy in the song, “The Gambler.”  We need to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away.”  God never intended life and never intended our relationship with Him to be like five-day old turkey. In fact, He invites us to His table where there are no leftovers, only fresh bread and living water.  Jesus called Himself that for a reason. He was saying don’t settle for the old when you can have the new…don’t eat stale when you can have life and have it more abundantly.

So, enjoy the leftovers this Thanksgiving but be sure they don’t become permanent fare.  And, most importantly, don’t let your friendship and fellowship with your Dearest Daddy digress to leftovers—for He wants something new for you every day.  Need help with that? No problem, just ask. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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

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

When I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Air Force things had to change.  My first duty station was about 15 miles from the Canadian border in a town called Minot—Minot, North Dakota.  I arrived there in October, and it was already too cold for a Florida boy.  The holidays were looming ahead, and it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a solo flight.  But then something happened.  Somehow, remember this is long before cellphones, my brother Jimmy, who lived in Amarillo, Texas, called and invited me to his house for Thanksgiving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

Worth Every Mile

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

It was crazy but worth every mile.  For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened.  While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know for us that was a good time.  Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.

I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service.  To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.

Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand.  We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic.  That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song.  It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.

There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills.  That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause.  Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average.  As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.

By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am.  1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour.  I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now.  Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning?  Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.

Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am.  We were tired.  We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter.  We were there.  We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity.  There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe.  Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all.  Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”

Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day.  The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was.  We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot.  And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic.  Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore.  And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.

While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too.  Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks.  Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As always, he was spot on.  Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do.  And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Trick and Treat

Jesus told him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Free Candy.  Holidays have always been special to me.  Of course, the king of the mountain is the one where we celebrate the birth of a King.  Of course, it took me awhile to get where I began to understand it wasn’t all about presents or a guy in a red suit, but I did eventually get a better understanding.  Oh, and then there is the one where the King that was born on Christmas defeats the big bad king—Death.  Well, and yes, it took me awhile to figure that one out too.  Turns out, it wasn’t about a bunny and free candy.  I’m slow but I usually, eventually, get there.

We could go and on…Memorial Day is not only about cookouts, but Independence Day is also about the price of freedom and not just fireworks, and finally, Thanksgiving is not just being about turkeys and pies.  There is nothing wrong with all of that—it’s just important that we remember what the main thing is—and camp there.  So, today, Halloween, what is that all about?  Well, when I was a kid, it was about one thing and one thing only—free candy.  We would dress up in whatever was handy—no bought costumes in those days—just hobos and pirates—grab the bag that momma had made us and hit the streets running.  We would go from house to house, from door to door, shouting those magic words, “Trick or Treat,” and stick our bag out and the candy came flying. Oh, and you better believe we said, “Thank you,” cause Momma taught us to.  Yup, in those days, things were just different.  There never was a trick…it wasn’t even an idle threat; it was just part of what we said.

I guess today all that has changed.  Today, Halloween has a bad rap.  The age of innocence is long gone.  Televisions and theaters are filled with horrible horror films and the whole holiday is now considered by most Jesus people to be a pagan sin feast…and maybe it is.  On the other hand, I think it is also Reformation Day…the day Martin Luther took a stand about God and grace.  But there is that one thing that has changed.  There is that one thing we have hung on to and that is those three words, “Trick or Treat.”  I’m glad those are still around because tucked away they hold some pretty big truths.

First, all this sin stuff started in the Garden of Eden when Satan tricked Eve into believing him and doubting God.  He was so convincing that she began to believe that God was holding out.  He was the good guy and God…He was selfish and wanted to keep everything for Himself.  Trick, trick trick.  But thankfully that is not the end of the story—for God had a treat for Satan’s trick.  God sent Truth into the world in the form of His Son Jesus.  Much later after the garden, when Jesus told us He was the Way, the Truth and the Life” He meant exactly that.  The truth is…He is Truth.  No tricks, no deception, no kidding…He is the antidote to the devil’s lie.  Believe the Truth and you live—believe the lie and die forever.  Wow.

But wait…there is more.  You see not only is there the trick and not only is there the Truth…there is that little connecting word, “or.”  You see, the word “or” makes sure we understand that there is a choice here.  We don’t have to be stuck with the lie and no, we don’t have to take the Truth…though we would be foolish not to do so.  There is free will. God offers eternal life to anyone, and Satan offers death to everyone.  God offers eternal life to anyone who will believe in Him and ask, and the enemy offers death to everyone else.  Listen, don’t be tricked by the trickster, the consequences of a wrong choice are just disastrous.

So, I hope in your part of the world you can let your kids load up on free candy.  I’m sure your dentist will be very happy.  Be careful and be safe and steer way clear of all the junk that is out there—and trust me—there is plenty.  Oh, and don’t forget the lesson from those three small words, “Trick or Treat.”  Remember that the trickster is a liar and offers spiritual death and the Treater is the Truth and offers eternal life.  Oh, and don’t forget three more important words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Seasoning for the Seasons

If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13b

Man..that would have to be bland.  I was talking to someone the other day and they said something that caught my ear.  They said, “I don’t like salt.”  Wait. What?  I mean I’ve heard lots of people say that they don’t use salt.  The reason is usually a doctor or a spouse that has laid down the law.  It is usually medically driven, and you do without so you can keep on doing.  But this person said he didn’t like salt. That is just hard to imagine.

You all probably know that I love food…just about all kinds, all flavors, and all portions.  But food without seasoning just kinda takes away the whole point.  You know what Jesus said don’t you?  He said that salt that has lost it savor…its flavor…its ability to influence is worthless.  “Chuck it out on the sand pile,” he said.  Imagine grits with no salt, green beans with no salt (or fatback…oh my), mashed potatoes with no salt (wait that might even be a sin) and the list just goes on and on.  At least for me it becomes a gray world where eating becomes something you have to do instead of something you want to do…you crave to do.

I was listening to a short devotional video that sparked all this thinking about seasoning and salt.  The person said we should allow God’s Word to marinate our lives.  Let me explain.  I like chicken.  I really like fried chicken. I especially like fried chicken that has been dipped in a really good dry mixture of spices—how many does the Colonel use? Or maybe it is a wet batter just waiting to be plunged to a frying pan of hot grease.  Can someone say hallelujah?

Believe it or not there are other ways to eat chicken and one of the most popular is grilled chicken. I’m a fan of that too but especially when the chicken has been marinated in some sort of marinade.  You see, as the chicken takes a bath in whatever it is the flavor of the marinade slowly seeps into the chicken…changing it from just chicken to something that is just about heavenly.  Are you tracking with me?  So, the bottom line just seems to be the things that we season our food with changes the whole experience.  It is true with food…and it is true with life.

An unseasoned life can be pretty boring and at the same time a life seasoned with the wrong things can be pretty disastrous.  It is important that we allow the right things to influence us.  The wrong environments, the wrong company, the wrong media habits, and the wrong mindset can all set us up for a life that at the least is less than and at the most leaves us depressed, discouraged, and disillusioned.  Just like with food…the seasonings matter.  Colonel Sanders talks about his secret blend of seasoning and spices, but I don’t want this to be a secret.

You see, as I have journeyed through the kitchen of life (and trust me I have ended up in a few frying pans) I have discovered the secret to a well-seasoned life.  Are you ready?  It is a personal relationship with the God who created it all.  Now wait…don’t close the book yet.  Notice I didn’t say religion, I didn’t say church, I didn’t say doing this or doing that…I said a personal encounter with the God who loves me and you enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  When you add that kind of love to your life…it’s gotta be good.  Smucker’s (they make jams and jelly) says this, “If it is Smucker’s it has to be good.”  I’ve had their stuff and it is pretty sweet…no pun intended.

Well, let me tell you, if it is God, contrary to what you have heard, it has got to be good.  Now I’m not talking about the version you see too often in the lives of people…I am talking about the version that you find in His book…the Bible.  So, if you are thinking about adding some seasoning to your life, let me encourage you to get a copy of the Bible and try reading about Jesus.  You might want to start in the Gospel (which means Good News) of John.  Using the index will make it easy to find.  What you will discover will change the flavor of your life.  If you are finding that things in your world are just a little or a lot bland—ask the Master Chef—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Simply Nonstick

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Slip sliding away.  Now let’s be honest and let’s be clear.  I don’t have a clue about cooking, but I do know just a little about frying pans.  Back in the old days when it came to frying pans it was cast iron or nothing and cast iron had and has its place.  But some years ago, they started making frying pans that food stuff wouldn’t stick too.  Well about seven or eight years ago we bought a pricy set of pots that were supposed to be stick proof and I guess for the first few years they were.  Then, slowly, and as sure as a slug on a sidewalk, it stopped being non-stick.

Now my experience with frying pans is limited to frying, or maybe it is just cooking in a frying pan, eggbeaters for my breakfast and if you weren’t careful you ended up with a sticky mess.  Sometimes there was more egg left in the pan than there was on my plate.  Finally…my wife Judy said enough.  She went to the Walmart store and bought one of those pans you see advertised on television.  The ad said that “nothing would stick”. It showed eggs, burnt butter and cheese, you name it and with just a tilt of the pan—off it would go.  Turns out that was not exactly true. I told her she should take the thing back, but she said it was too late.

Well, out of frustration I decided to try something.  I sprayed the pan with some Pam…it’s like cooking oil in a spray can – I think. After spraying the pan, I poured some eggbeaters in and just like that – problem solved.  Those eggs—or eggbeaters—were sliding all over the pan just like the commercial.  It turns out all that the pan needed was a little help.  The bottom line is it is good to have a pan that doesn’t try and keep my eggs.

You know that made me think.  That pan and the spray stuff is a whole like God’s grace and our faith.  Imagine with me that the pan is the grace of God.  Grace simply means God’s unmerited favor.  Now imagine that the spray on stuff is like faith.  Faith is when we believe something that we can’t see, touch, or feel.  Put the two together and you have a combination that simply will not allow sin to stick and that is good news.  Just like the eggbeaters slid right out that pan, so sin is forgiven and won’t stick around to condemn us.  Grace and faith—what a wonderful combination.

Paul, the guy in the Bible who wrote a lot of the New Testament said this, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” “By grace through faith,” put the two together and your sin just won’t stick to your account. Gone. Forgiven. Banished. And just like the eggs, or eggbeaters, have little or nothing to do with their time in the pan so when it comes to God’s forgiveness that is true too. All we do is believe…everything else is on God. Oh, and just like the commercial…no sin and I mean no sin, is going to stick—no matter how big or bad. His grace is sufficient for the job. You gotta love it.

So, if the next time you are frying something, and it sticks to the pan—just head to the store and get you one of those fancy new ones.  Oh, and don’t forget the Pam.  And the next time you get into deep weeds with your sin, just remember this story and step into God’s grace and your faith…it is a winning combo.  No matter how big the mess…His grace is enough. All you need to do is ask for His forgiveness and I can already tell you His reply—I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, loving others, priorities

Pot Roast and Traditions

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Matthew 15:3

It is a tale that I could identify with. The story is told of a young girl who was watching her mother prepare Sunday’s lunch. She watched as her mother carefully cut the pot roast in two before placing it in the pan. This intrigued her so she asked her mother why she did this. Her answer was simple and direct, “Because my mother did.” She wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer so her mother told her to go and ask grandma. And she did. Grandma gave her the same answer, “Because my mother did.” Well, the little girl decided to ask her great grandmother why she cut her roast in two. So, the next time she was at the nursing home visiting, she asked. Without missing a beat she said, “Well, honey, my pot was too small.”

Isn’t it funny how something done for a particular reason can be passed on and on. Isn’t it strange how we do something and long after the reason for doing it is gone…we keep right on doing it? I know because I’ve got a “thing” in my world. You, way back in 1985, my wife Judy and I purchased a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. It quickly became one of our favorite cars. It had the woodgrain trim down the side and seating for eight. It also had something else…it had a digital dash. Now keep in mind that was pretty high tech for 1985. Well, it had a little glitch.

That little glitch really was big one…the gas gauge was just not accurate. It often said you had more gas than you did. Well, one day, it got me…I ran out of fuel. After a lift to a station and returning with a borrowed gas can of gas, I was soon back on the road again…sing it Willie. And, that day, a new habit was born. Every time I bought fuel I would fill the tank and reset the trip odometer so I would know how far I could go. I never trusted the gauge again. So I would fill up with gas and reset the trip odometer…over and over again.

Well, one day it was time for the Oldsmobile Cruiser to cruise on and we got another car. New car, new gas gauge…no need to reset the trip odometer, right? Maybe not but the same old habit remained…always fill the tank and always reset the trip odometer. Now the gauge in the new car worked perfectly but the old habit remained. And guess what? It remains today. Here’s the deal. Thirty-seven years have come and gone and every time I buy fuel—I press reset. And if Judy happens to buy fuel instead of me, and she forgets to hit reset, I explain to her she needed to do it. And, she gives me the, “why” look and I just tell her because it’s just what we do. You might say I cut the roast in half because I always have.

So, is there something in your life that you are clinging to just because you have always done it that way? Of course it might be something that is totally harmless but sometimes…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can lead to an angry exchange because someone didn’t keep the habit…the tradition. Sometimes relationships can be damaged. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. A tradition is messed with and World War III breaks out. The bottom line is there are habits, there are things, there are traditions that are noteworthy and good but we shouldn’t let them break friendships, relationships and hearts. Honestly, we may not need to cut the roast in two after all.

In the Bible back in the days of Jesus, the religious leaders added all kind of rules and traditions to their daily lives. The crazy part is they gave the traditions the same weight as the Law of God and trust me that was not a good idea. In fact, it wasn’t a good idea then and it sure isn’t now either. Jesus, talking to the temple leaders, said, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Now that’s a good question.

I hope this will remind us that there are more important things to do than cutting your roast in half. In other words, there are hills worth dying on and others that should be let go. And most important, don’t let opinions and traditions drive a wedge between you and another person. It just isn’t worth it. A broken heart or relationship is far too high of a price to pay. If you ever need some advice about this, just ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you that people matter more than pride, or traditions or habits. And if you have already made a mess with this, don’t worry, He can help with the cleanup…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, friends, Grace, life, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Small Things…Big Consequences

“Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Song of Solomon 2:15

Recently, we had a couple of visitors at our home…and they were not welcome. We all have them at one time or another…I guess. One of the things about living in an older home is they seem to always find a way in. I am talking about the little brown furry ones…mice. This time of year it seems they want to come inside out of the cold. Who can blame them? Well, I can…and they visit at their own peril.

I don’t like them and my wife Judy really doesn’t like them. So when we found out they were visiting, we launched an all out war. We set two kinds of traps and used a glue board. Well, they laughed at the glue board and the fancy new traps we bought. But the old fashioned ones finally sent them to brown furry heaven. Did I feel bad? Nope, in fact I did my little happy dance.

The furry little visitors really liked to visit our pantry and in fact that is where they met their demise. We have since found a way to discourage their cousins from visiting by putting almost everything in plastic containers. But, it turns out that they had the last laugh. You see, I had purchased a variety pack of chips. They were small bags of, oh, six or seven kinds of snack foods. Well, as it turns out, the little furry brown visitors liked to chew a hole in the bag to see what was on the inside. As far as I could tell, they didn’t eat any, they just chewed a hole.

Well, I found this out the hard way. I selected a bag, opened it up and popped a chip in my waiting mouth. I was surprised to discover that it was stale. Hmmm. I looked and sure enough there was a whole about the size of a nickel in the bag. Bummer. So, I tossed that one in the trash and started going through the rest of the bags. Believe it or not, most of the bags had smallish holes. Well, because that meant the furry little visitors had nibbled on the bag and because that meant the chips were stale, all of them went in the trash. Being a rather frugal person…it kinda made me mad.

There were a couple of bags that survived and when I was packing for a recent trip to North Carolina, I decided to take some snacks. There was one bag of Fritos that had escaped the onslaught of the furry visitors and I figured something salty might taste good later on so I tossed them into my snack bag. Sure enough, one night at the hotel, I decided the time for something salty had come. I opened the bag, and with great anticipation tossed a couple of Fritos in my mouth. Well, guess what? Yup…they were stale.

Wait a minute. We had checked the bags…the violated ones had been tossed and only the survivors were kept. This was one of the survivors. So, I began to check the bag again and here is what I found. At the bottom of the bag, near the seam, was the tiniest, the smallest hole you could imagine. It was so small, I had to look twice. But guess what? It was enough for the seal to be broken and when the seal is broken…things go stale pretty quickly. Sure, the fresh by date was months down the road, but that assumed a little furry visitor didn’t poke a hole in the bag.

And that made me think. How could such a small hole make such a big difference? Of course the answer is…the seal was broken…the integrity of the bag was violated. And that made me think about us, about me and my life and my decisions. It made me realize that you don’t have to do something incredibly stupid to have things go south in your life. We are not surprised by some of the things we do…you know…eat a dozen donuts and gain a pound or two. But too often we think the little things don’t matter…but they do…oh, they do.

And all that leads up to one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament. It is found in the Song of Solomon, chapter two, verse 15, “Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Great verse. The author is saying it often it isn’t the elephants walking through our lives that get us…it is the little things that can make life go stale. So we have to be on alert. Remember little things can have big consequences. If you need some help, you might want to call an exterminator…but not the kind you think. You might want to ask the Creator…He is ready to help. As always, big or little, He’s got this too. Bro. Dewayne

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

Welcome Home

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

That’s a wrap.  When a film crew is filming, and the job is complete they call it a wrap.  The filming is over, done, finito (that’s Italian for finished…impressive huh?) Well, while the Covid virus is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives, apparently it is finito. With herd immunity and all the new medicines available, its power has been dramatically reduced.  If you ever saw the cartoon version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you remember that the abominable snowman lost his bite then they pulled his teeth.  So now, it seems with Covid also.

I heard the other day that our President even announced that it was done and looking around I agree. The other night my wife, Judy, and I went out to eat and we chose Cracker Barrel.  Now believe it or not, this restaurant has been a pretty good judge of Covid’s impact.  Of course, there was a time during Covid when it was closed, there was a time when they spaced everyone out and there were no condiments on the tables.  There was a time when there were paper menus that were promptly trashed after someone touched them.  And, when you walked in there might be a couple of dozen people there. But now, it seems, things have changed.

As I said, Friday night, we visited the closest Cracker Barrel. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was just about full.  I told Judy, “I sure hope we don’t have to wait.” I hate waiting…especially waiting to eat.  We walked in and to my surprise there wasn’t a line.  The hostess asked how many, picked up a couple of menus and took us to our table.  Well, here you go.  The first dining room was totally full…something that I had not seen for two years.  There were condiments on the tables and people were talking, laughing, and eating.  The next dining room was about 70 percent full but that is where we found our table.  Our hostess gave us a couple of real menus and that is when I said it, “Judy, it is normal.” So, we enjoyed a great meal and well, it all just felt good.

Normalcy.  It does feel good, but the truth is somethings just aren’t.  I went to the hospital to visit some folks this week and they are still requiring masks…sorta.  The signs say you must be screened to enter but you don’t.  The signs say that even one, including patients, must wear a mask but none of patients did though most other people did.  A real strange outcome of all of this is the job market.  There apparently are more jobs than people who want to work. I saw a sign that said, “Now Hiring…Just Like Everyone Else.” And believe it or not, when some people take a job, they may only stay a few days or weeks.  How different…how strange.

I went to my hearing doctor this week and he asked me how church (he knows I am a pastor) was going and what percentage of people have come back.  I told him we were running about 80 or 85 percent of our pre-Covid numbers.  The truth is while Covid was doing its thing some folks just gave up on the church thing.  Now that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they gave up on God, they just came to the conclusion that church wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m sure some people feel the same way about Cracker Barrel—pre-Covid they loved it but now they can do without it.  How different…how interesting.

As a preacher, pastor guy I’m hoping that more of those who stopping coming and some who never came will rediscover and discover the value of this part of normalcy.  I never gave up on Cracker Barrel because I love their breakfast and their meatloaf isn’t too bad either.  There are several things that your local church provides that are worth hanging on to.  Chief among them are friendships and fellowship, someone to walk with you and your family as you do life, studying the number one bestselling book, the Bible, and being together with other people who think God is still relevant…because He is.

So, welcome back to normal.  As you rediscover life, I hope you will enjoy a great meal somewhere familiar…maybe Cracker Barrel or better a local place that misses you.  And why not think about coming home to God’s house.  Truthfully, they need you and you need them. The church offers something that nothing, not hobbies, not sports, not anything else can provide. It offers hope…it offers Jesus.  Whoever wrote Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Now that’s some good advice.  I know, sometimes it is hard to come home but your Dearest Daddy is waiting and ready to help.  Don’t worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Just Follow the Recipe

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It sounds morbid but it’s not…I think.  My wife Judy and I have been married forever and that means we are not quite as young as we used to be.  Sometimes, to pass the time, we joke around and sometimes that includes what would happen if one of us was to uh, well, you know, pass.  So, I’ve always told her if she was to go first, I wouldn’t remarry…I would just get a dog.  I laugh and she laughs but then she always assures me that would never work.  She and I both know just how much I depend on her to do life.  I can clean house…kinda.  I can wash clothes…sorta…you know, all in one big load but there is one thing that I can’t do.  I can’t cook.

When she leaves town to babysit or whatever, the menu at the Taylor house changes dramatically.  If it is anything more than grits in the microwave, a sandwich, or a frozen dinner…we are in deep weeds.  So, the other day, when my friend David began talking about cooking, I started listening.  He is a great cook…actually on that particular day it was a smoked Boston butt with the fixings and a homemade, handmade peach cobbler with homemade ice cream.  Like I said…he can cook.

As we were talking about cooking, he mentioned that he had a scale and instead of measuring all the ingredients, he weighed all the ingredients (in grams). So instead of a cup of flour you might have 283 grams of flour. He said that most recipes give the amounts in grams too. And, if you do this, it becomes really easy to follow a recipe and if I could follow a recipe, I should be able to cook. Boom! Cooking problem solved and I could still get a dog.

The big thing about the scale is that it is just more accurate.  A packed cup of flour is probably a lot more than a cup of flour loosely put in the cup.  Well, the more accurate the measurements are, the better the end result.  Are you tracking with me?  The scale is a game changer and guess what?  So is God. Just like the scale would help me stay on track with the recipe, so God can and will help me walk the path of life.  With Him, life isn’t perfect, but it is better…so much better.

The reason I am a terrible cook isn’t that I can’t read, it is that I want to change the recipe. I always figure if one cup of sugar is good…two would certainly be better.  If a teaspoon of cinnamon is good in an apple pie…well, two should be twice as good.  But if I had a scale and was willing to follow the scale…I could make a perfect pie every time.  And when I, when we, are willing to follow God in the recipe of life…we can cook up some good pies…trust me.

 I have grown to love something that is recorded in one of the Old Testament books.  In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I know that is written to the nation of Israel, but I also know the truth is written for every one of God’s kids.  So, as you are whipping up days and experiences in the kitchen of life, be sure and invite God to come along.  Follow Him and the disasters are fewer and farther apart.  When the dust from the flour clears, you can be assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne