Posted in Family, food, life, loving others, Scripture, Trials

I Finally Won!

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:4-5

Deep inside I was kinda, sorta…glad.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Now, it was one of those good news, bad news things.  The bad news of course was that I had the stinking thing.  The good news was that compared to some folks and their struggle with it…well, I was pretty, blessed.  With medicine and by watching what I eat, it was quickly under control.  Of course, the only problem was the “watching what I eat” thing. It was a matter of definition.  To me watching what I ate meant as my fork hit my plate, I watched carefully to make sure nothing fell off. Trust me…it had very little to do with being healthy.  Of course, to my wife Judy, watching what I ate meant…watching what I ate. Watch your carbs, eat your greens, portion control and…well, you get the idea.

I have always been one of the guys who wrestled with food stuff. Because of that, weight and things like diabetes are a pretty constant struggle.  Judy, on the other hand, hasn’t had much of a weight struggle at all.  It seems she can eat carbs till the cows come home and it just doesn’t seem to impact her.  It just didn’t seem fair.  And then, if that wasn’t enough, she also seems to be better at things than me.  She sins less, she reads her Bible more, and I bet St. Peter in heaven even gives her rave reviews on her prayers.  She’s no Mother Teresa, but I think most of the time she must be a first cousin or something.

Well, I finally found something that I can beat her in…and I’m enjoying it way too much. Smile.  So earlier this year Judy was preparing for her annual checkup with the doctor (she beats me at that, too) and so she had the doctor order a panel of blood tests to prepare for the visit.  All of us, including the doctor, were very surprised to learn that she was diabetic.  It is most certainly a gene thing…though she does like her bread.  At any rate, her sugar level was much higher than mine and her A1C…well, I smoked her.  So, when she was diagnosed, I thought it would be a great time to get serious with my own demon and before long I was regularly waxing her.  I loved it—I love it.

I was never so glad to stick my finger.  “Good morning, honey.” “Did you sleep well, honey?”  “Did you check your sugar yet, honey?”  “It was what, honey?  Oh my…that’s too bad. Mine was…” I just love it.  Now I am sure somewhere in the Bible it says that being glad your wife has diabetes is a sin.  In fact, I’m not glad she is diabetic…I’m just glad to beat her at something.  I mean, on the rare occasion that I get to be right and she is wrong, it is like one of those Christmas mornings when you get everything you wanted.

While I enjoy my little diabetic victory, and I think Judy at least tolerates it, we all really must be careful when we start comparing ourselves to others.  Comparatitis (yup, made that one up) can be very damaging and maybe even dangerous.  If you are the one always struggling, it can leave you feeling less than and if you are always on the winning side it can lead to a bad case of pride. Regardless, it is something that we have to keep an eye on.  It probably isn’t surprising, but this isn’t a new deal at all.  It has been around since the beginning of time.  I mean it was comparatitis that caused Cain to take out Abel.  Bummer.

Paul, the guy from the New Testament, gives some great advice.  He says, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”  Boom…right on Paul.  When I watch what I eat (that’s a win) and when I see good results (that’s a win), I don’t need for someone else to fail for me to feel good. How about that?  Well, truth be known, it is a struggle to not compare ourselves with others, but I just happen to know someone who can help.  God loves to help struggling pilgrims and He wants to help us.  Just ask, and you will find Him ready, willing, and able to walk with you along your journey.  He loves us regardless of what the meter says and no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Holy Moley

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

This is the kind of story I don’t like writing.  Since some of you know me and some of you don’t, I’ll start by saying that I have issues.  Yup…and more than one.  With that said, this story is about my health issues.  All my life I have had this battle with my weight.  Although people say I wear it well, I pack more baggage than I need to carry on this trip called life. Consequently,  most of the time I am either on the way up…or on the way down.  That’s just the way it is.  And honestly, it is all about—sugar.

You see, I love snacks, and in particular, I love sweet snacks.  Now I’m not talking about candy though I’m not saying I would turn down a Butterfinger.  No, I like baked stuff and I am an equal opportunities eater.  Pies, cakes, donuts, cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls—if it is baked and sweet—count me in.  To help counter the calories, I do try and exercise—at least some.  In fact, at the beginning of last year, 2020, I managed to walk a couple of miles a day, five and six times a week for months.  Yay for me…but then something happened.  However and whatever the cause, sometime late fall I quit and when I quit—it happened.  The flat-out truth is I started gaining girth like a snowball going downhill.

Well, I did what any self-respecting foodaholic does—I just quit getting on the scale and, oh yes, I quit checking my blood sugar too.  Did I mention that I am a diabetic? Did you also know that donuts, cake, pie, cookies, and brownies don’t go with diabetes? But don’t worry, I’m not a really severe diabetic. That’s another way you quit doing the right thing.  You simply justify your behavior. A guy said this week that justifying is “just a lying.’” Ouch.

I was a recipe, no pun intended, for disaster.  I could tell I wasn’t doing well.  I could feel my body saying, “Excuse me.”  After binge eating on whatever was sweet one Sunday, I got on the scale on Monday.  Holy moly.  I also checked my blood sugar on Monday. Holy moly the second time.  Good grief.  I was so frustrated with myself.  I didn’t even have to ask, how did it happen?  I knew…all too well.

Here’s the deal.  You know those red lights and crossing guards at railroad crossings?  Do you know the consequences when you ignore them?  Well, I ignored the lights and the crossing guard and the easiest way to do that was just quit—quit weighing and quit sticking your finger.  Anybody can tell you the truth of this. To start down the wrong path just STOP doing the things that help you be accountable.  Maybe, your AA meetings.  Maybe your exercise.  Maybe going to church.  Maybe reading your Bible.  Well, the list goes on and on.

I stumbled on a really, good verse in the book of Proverbs this week.  It says a wise person will see danger and take cover.  A foolish (or inexperienced) person will see the same danger and keep right on going.  That’s a good verse. No, that’s a great verse. What about you, what is it in your life right now that you can see the red lights flashing and the crossing guard down?  More importantly, what are going to do with it.  Trust me…it is really important.  You see that decision will determine your regrets and consequences.  Remember that “holy moly” moment I wrote about—yup, that’s the deal.

The answer is simple.  Stop saying tomorrow and start today.  There’s a saying I just love—when you are tempted to stop, just remember why you started.  I know I’m only two weeks in but here’s the results so far.  By returning to my exercise and eating healthy and breaking up with my beloved carbs and sweets, I have dropped over 13 pounds and my sugar…normal.  I am grateful that my body still responds to doing the right things.  And for me it is relatively easy…at least with these two things.  But trust me there are other things that are a daily battle.

The good news is I have someone who stays by my side…as the Bible says, a friend closer than a brother.  Who would that be?  My Dearest Daddy.  He is for me and never against me.  He has things planned for me that are too good to miss. I know this COVID has messed with our spiritual stuff pretty badly.  But I hope you will make the decision, today, to “get back on the scale.”  Your Heavenly Father will be there to help.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, New Year, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Ralph’s

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

It was donut heaven.  Judy and I took a trip to middle Tennessee to do some hiking and be amazed all over again at the wonder of God’s creation.  We stayed in the small city of Cookeville which is about an hour east of Nashville.  We had driven by there many times on our way to Pigeon Forge and points east but never stopped.  And for some reason…this time it was our destination. It was wonderful.

Within a few minutes driving time were some of the most beautiful waterfalls I have ever seen.  One, Fall Creek Falls, is the tallest falls east of the Rockies—256 feet of free falling water.  Then there was Burgess Falls which had not one, but three separate falls…each one more spectacular than the one before.  Finally we drove over to Rock Island State Park and were amazed by a river that fell and fell and fell—each time creating a beautiful waterfall.  Then, coming out of caves in a huge, high bluff was a massive waterfall falling into the river.  Unbelievable. I would think God would get a 10 for all the beauty that we have seen.  And then…there was Ralph’s.

When we stay at an Airbnb, we always check out all the literature that the host leaves to make the visit more enjoyable.  We also check out comments in the guest book for tidbits of information.  That is where we heard about Ralph’s.  Three different previous guests mentioned this mom and pop donut shop in downtown Cookeville.  We had to visit.  To not do so would have been a travesty of donut-ism.  So we were on our way on Monday morning when Judy checked their website.  Oh no…closed on Mondays.  We had to wait another day.

Tuesday morning after planning our hikes for the day, we headed to Ralph’s Donut Shop to ensure we had plenty of calories on hand for our journey.  When we arrived it was indeed an ordinary mom and pop donut shop.  But trust me…it was anything but ordinary.  The first thing I noticed was the sign stating that they had been open since 1962.  Do the math and you will find out that they have been making donuts for 58 years—in the donut world that’s like forever.  And then—we opened the door.

It was donut heaven.  I know that to be true because so many things in the case were “holey.” Get it?  Anyway, to my left was a horseshoe shaped counter with almost every stool filled with locals enjoying coffee and pastries.  There was a long glass case and a whole wall filled with pastries and donuts.  And there to greet us was the best donut salesman in the world.  You could tell this guy loved his job and was “in the right seat on the bus.”  Judy and I use that phrase to describe someone who is doing what they were meant to do.  This guy was meant to work at Ralph’s.  The first thing my eye spotted was the royalty of pastries—the fried apple fritter.  It was massive, fried crispy, covered with glaze with the middle stuffed with apple filling.  One please.

Then the sales guy told us the fritter was their best seller until the butter twist came along.  It was a fried donut but the twist was they brushed it with butter before cooking.  He said it was voted the number one donut in the entire state of Tennessee.  I’m sure he was telling the truth.  Two please.  Judy wanted something chocolate.  No problem—a butter twist with chocolate frosting should do the trick.  One please.  Then I asked about this chocolate creation on the top shelf.  It was a devil’s food mix and saturated with chocolate.  He said it was diabetes on a plate and should come with a shot of insulin.  We passed on that one. His final gift was a spice bar that was broken in two, so it was free.  He said it was as if Little Debbie married gingerbread and had a baby.  I loved it.

Judy and I had read that they closed at 11:30 so we assumed 11:30 am but we asked anyway.  Oh no…they have three shifts of bakers and are open from 5:00 am till 11:30 pm.  Now who has ever heard of a donut shop staying open that long—and they are doing quite well, thank you.  Oh, and did I mention that they are listed in the top 20 donut bakeries in the entire United States?  Oh, yes…it was donut heaven and it was “holey” ground.

Well, there is one thing that was obvious at Ralph’s—they were all in.  They knew their product, they believed in their product and they wanted to share their product.  Even if you didn’t like donuts, you wanted to buy one by the time you left.  You wanted what they had because it had to be worth having.  I have a feeling that we as Jesus followers should take a lesson from Ralph’s.  We know we have the best thing in all of creation to offer those in our world—the good news of Jesus Christ.  Donuts may be “holey” but Jesus can make us holy—holy enough to call God, Father—holy enough to go to heaven.  And Ralph’s may have been making donuts for 58 years but God has been loving us since before the foundation of the world.  He wants to walk with us through this New Year and every year.  He is a beyond amazing God.

Since He is so incredible—if we love Him, if we believe in Him—we should be all in too.  We should live like we believe and share the Word about Him like we believe it.  I left Ralph’s wanting to tell people about this amazing place.  I think we need to get up every morning wanting to tell everyone the great Good News.  On this first day of this great New Year let’s figuratively get behind the counter—not to sell donuts but to share the Good News. And what is that? It is that God, Creator God, so loved this world that gave His Son to a Roman cross that anyone who believes in Him and what He did—can have everlasting life.  And that is the best news ever.  Oh and then there is more.  No matter what today or this year sends our way, we have the assurance that He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, loving others, 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 they are 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.

The 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 were 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— is 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 this COVID mess we have an opportunity to show off our love for God and others.  It can happen…it should happen…because He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, life

Fish and Spaghetti

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the Man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6a

No really…it is good. I’m a food mixer.  I know some people love to keep their food separate on their plates and some folks even eat one item at a time.  They will eat all their meat, all their potatoes and so on and so on.  Not me.  I like to to mix it up a little.  In fact the best bite on the plate is always the last bite.  It always has a little bit of everything on the plate. First you scrape it all together in a tidy little pile, scoop it on your fork and let it fly.  Awesome.

I’m not sure how it started but one of my absolute favorite mixings is tartar sauce and Heinz Ketchup.  When I order fish I always squirt a big puddle of ketchup on my plate and then mix in a helping of tartar sauce.  Then you take your fork and stir it together and start dipping your fish in this magic pink sauce.  All I can say is, if you haven’t tried it you need to.  Not too long ago a server at a restaurant noticed my strange concoction.  Without saying anything to me, she went back to the kitchen and stirred up a batch.  She was soon back at my table singing the praises of the power of “pink.”

They say that things go better with Coke and fish, all kinds of fish, go better with pink.  But…there is one exception.  Fish and spaghetti.  Ever heard of it?  Well, not only have I heard of it, I have had it several times.  In fact, Lord willing,  tomorrow night I will be sitting down to fish and spaghetti.  Now first, you need to understand it is not fish cooked in spaghetti, rather it is fish served with spaghetti.  I learned of this food miracle a while back.  A couple that attends our church invited my wife Judy and I over for supper.  We were served fish and spaghetti and it was incredible.

To be sure this dynamic combo is not an accident.  First, David is the fish cooker and the man takes frying fish to a new level.  Moist and crisp at the same time…it is “shoot that thang” good.  Second, Lisa makes some of the best spaghetti I have ever eaten. It is seasoned perfectly and has just a slightly different flavor then most spaghetti I have had.  I fell in love that night.  I am a fish and spaghetti man for life.

David is an African American and when we were discussing this duet, he assured me it was a “black thing.”  I had never heard of these two things together before and he told me to ask someone…so I did.  I asked another friend of mine who happens to also be African American, “So what do you eat with spaghetti?”  She quickly replied, “Fish.” There you go.  I have been a comfort food fanatic for over six decades and almost missed this food wonder.  It is almost a food group all of its on.

Things are like that sometimes.  Sometimes certain things just click together.  It is as if they were meant to be together. Peanut butter and jelly.  Chocolate and peanut butter. Cheese and summer sausage. Well, add fish and spaghetti to the list.  And while you are listing—be sure and add Jesus and you.  I have been a Jesus follower since 1975 and I am telling you He took life to a whole different level.  He makes the good even better and makes the difficult more than tolerable. He is amazing.  And just like fish and spaghetti if you’ve never tried Him you don’t know what you are missing.  He makes life worth living.

Now understand I’m not talking about you and religion, or you and church.  A relationship with Jesus is totally different from church or religion.  I like church and tolerate religion but neither one of them is even close to Jesus.  He is literally One of a kind. The Bible says that there is One go-between who can bring God and us together and it is the man Christ Jesus.  He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone.  I hope you will get a copy of His Book—the Bible—and read about Him this Christmas season.  You will discover a Man like no other who loves you like no other.  He is a best friend on steroids. I admit these are crazy days we are living in—you know it and I know it.  I’ve found that Jesus adds stability, peace and hope to what can be a pretty difficult existence. With Him we go from surviving to thriving.  All you need to do is believe.  Believe that He is who He claims to be—the God man—believe that He died on a Roman cross to pay the price for your sin, believe He came back to life and believe that if you ask He will forgive you.  I took Him at His word and He is everything He claims to be.  He is the real deal.  And, hey, when God is your best friend you can sleep better at night and rest better in during the day.  When the God who made it all is your best friend—you can believe that He’s got this…and He does.

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, 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 disappearing quickly in the rearview mirror.  Even in the COVID mess this year 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 lists the side dishes, is almost set in stone.  Mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, strawberry salad and other salads that makes 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.  Mama 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 made a roast and one of the things I loved was to take two (one wouldn’t do) slices 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.

Mama 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 Mama’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 two 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.  Now even the best biscuits almost always need a little help to become great.  It might be a smothering of butter or butter and honey or syrup and good becomes great.  By far the greatness soul mate of a biscuit is a flood of good sausage gravy.  On my goodness—that combination is it’s 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 that doesn’t deserve it.  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 showing grace.

Now hear 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 this COVID thing is fracturing 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 will take a long time to heal.  If that happens and when this thing is all over, we might be able to heal, 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 correctly, 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 then He lavishes it on us.  Wow and bring on the gravy—bring on the grace. 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 this COVID mess and its left you like so much dry turkey, ask God to pour on grace and you will soon be revived because…He’s got this.

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

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spilt Milk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you ever broken a jug of milk in your car before?  Well, probably not, but let me ask you this.  Have you ever done something wrong, something that hurt someone, something that broke someone’s heart?  If so, you probably know what this story is about.  You see when we get all fired up and make bad choices with big regrets, it doesn’t just go away…oh no…it lingers and lingers and lingers.  And you know and I know, sometimes the scar just stays forever.  I know we shouldn’t cry over spilt milk, but maybe we should shed a few tears over broken hearts, hearts broken by our hands or voices.

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

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

Taters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

God Is

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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