Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

The Lone Ranger

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.” Luke 10:33

Who was that masked man?  Well, back in the old days…no wait…I mean the really old days when the first two numbers of the year were 19, there was a television show called “The Lone Ranger.”  He was a really good guy and had an Indian (maybe that should be Native American) sidekick named Tonto.  The Lone Ranger also had a horse named Silver. It was a great show—even in black and white.  The show had two famous lines.  The first was when the Lone Ranger was about to take off on his trusty horse Silver.  He would command, “Hi-yo Silver, Away.”  Invariably, the horse would rear up and off they would go.  The second famous line occurred when the Lone Ranger did his job and did away with a bad guy.  Also invariably the bad guy would say, “Who was that masked man?”  It was of course…the Lone Ranger.

Well, these days, history has started repeating itself only we don’t have one masked man…we have millions.  Oh but wait, we not only have masked men we have masked women…and boys…and girls…and babies.  Thanks to the COVID, we have all become Lone Rangers and we find ourselves asking, “Who was the masked man?”  I am absolutely certain I have ignored several church members at the store simply because I didn’t recognize them.  Equally as bad I have carried on 15 minute conversations with complete strangers thinking they were someone I knew.  I am totally confused.

Today though the Lone Ranger—the ultimate good guy—took on a new meaning. It wasn’t the Lone Ranger—it was the Road Ranger! We were traveling down to Gainesville, Florida to officiate at my Aunt Maryjo’s service.  She was my daddy’s baby sister and the last of that generation.  As we crossed into Florida, we eventually hit Interstate 10 heading East.  We stopped at a rest stop because we needed to rest.  It is a long way to Gainesville, Florida.  My wife and I were stretching our legs and we walked by this really cool truck.  It was some kind of official vehicle and had caution lights, big bumpers, a special receptacle on the front of the truck for jumping cars and all kinds of stuff in the back. It was a man truck only a man wasn’t driving it.

You see, on the side of the truck were the words, FDOT Road Ranger.  Beneath that it said, “A free (did you get that FREE) service sponsored by State Farm.  Standing next to the truck was a lady in a uniform.  From the signage I kinda thought I knew what it they did, but I decided to ask.  “Ma’am, so do you go and help people that are broken down on the road?”  She replied they did.  If someone has a flat tire, they will help them change it.  If they have a dead battery…they will jump them.  And I suppose if you run out of gas, they have some on board to get you to the next station.  Well, I told her I thought that was pretty awesome and thanked her for her kindness.  She once again told me it was sponsored by State Farm but I thanked her for her service to others.

I think that it is awesome that a company would sponsor a program like this.  When a traveler was at great need and when a company could take advantage of that—they offer free help.  Can you even imagine the comfort when “The Lone Ranger” showed up to help?  Can you imagine when the driver asked, “How much?” and the answer was “no charge?”  I’m telling you that is a breath of fresh air in what can be considered a pretty stale world.

Well, Judy said, “You know, I think that would make a good story.”  I think she was absolutely right.  I mean we live in a world where so many folks are broken down beside the road of life.  They are hot, bothered, discouraged, battered and beaten.  What if we were to become the Road Rangers along life’s road and began helping people…loving people.  Imagine the look on their faces when they realize we helped not to get paid, but rather just to help.  And, what if we were careful to make sure that they knew it was all because of what God had done for us.  Can you imagine?

I think I would like to be a Road Ranger…I mean really.  I don’t have the skill set but I do like helping people.  Well, truthfully, I better stick to preaching but I can, I should be a Road Ranger on the road of life.  We all should.  You know that story in the Bible where the least likely guy helps the guy who had been beat up and robbed.  Remember how he went over the top to help?  Well, he was being a Road Ranger—for Jesus and that is exactly what we should do.

So keep this little fact tucked away in your travel log, if you breakdown on any major road in Florida, somewhere not too far away will be a Road Ranger to help you.  It is a real comfort to know that they are close by…ready and willing to help.  It’s even better knowing that Jesus is always there waiting and wanting to help all those broken down on the road of life.  Go ahead and place the call—or pray the prayer.  Let Him know you need Him and He will be right there.  Until He arrives, just sit back and rest in the assurance that help is on the way.  Remember, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Robbed by Mr. Urgency

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

I was robbed.  This is one of those stories I really don’t want to write but I believe at the same time it’s gonna help someone…besides me.  I have been writing stories five days a week now since March.  It has been an incredible journey.  I’ve said this before, but it all started on a whim.  The COVID hot mess was just gaining steam and I felt led to write a story to encourage some folks.  I am not a Facebook person but that was the only avenue I had.  So, I wrote it and posted it on my page.  Amazingly, more than several dozen people read it and most wrote a comment. Those comments were what stirred me on to keep writing.  I decided to answer every comment.

Like utility poles whisking by on a fast moving train, the days went by.  I would write, many of you would write and I would read and write back.  It was so encouraging. It was like a drink of spring water on a hot day.  And then it happened.  In the rush to write, I forgot to take the time to read.  I got busier, and busier and it seemed all I had time to do was write and then write some more.  I would occasionally grab a comment here or there but that was about all I could manage. I had run smack-dab into Mr. Urgent. Judy would help out and read a couple to me, but the bottom line is I let the urgency of the moment rob me of that drink of cold water.  I felt like I had failed you…but just as importantly, I had failed myself.  You see, I was needing what you were saying…desperately.

A week or so ago I determined to go back a week to read what you all had said.  I was gonna do better.  So, I did.  I read, I wrote, and I was encouraged.  But then, thanks to Mr. Urgent I found myself so far behind that I said, “There’s no use trying.”  The good news, and boy do I need some, the good news, is that those precious jewels are safely stored on Facebook and soon I will journey back and read your notes of encouragement and I will be refreshed.  I will smile and I will remember why I do what I do.

As I am writing this, I realize that for me, and perhaps many of you, this isn’t the only time this has happened.  There is something else that Mr. Urgent can keep us from reading, something else that is of even greater importance—God’s Word.  I don’t know your background, but even if it doesn’t include a lot of God, this Book is nothing short of incredible.  Written over several millennia by about 40 authors, this Book is God’s love letter to us.  It is as multifaceted as the most brilliant diamond.  It is amazing.

What I find so impressive is that when you open it at the front and till you close it at the back, it has one theme—that God so loved this broken and imperfect world that He gave His only Son that anybody—let that soak in—anybody that believes in Him can have eternal life.  It really is amazing and it really is true.  As you journey through it you find stories of imperfect people loved and rescued by this infinitely powerful God.  And honestly, the story doesn’t always end like we would want.  But it always ends with one undeniable truth:  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.

Thank you for reading and writing those encouraging comments.  I may be slow getting there but I hope none of them will be wasted.  And also, watch out for Mr. Urgent. His “tyranny of the urgent” can and will keep you from what really matters. Whether it is time with family or time in God’s Word, he will rob you and leave you beside the road of life wondering what happened.  Be sure and take time, make time to read His amazing story.  Been awhile since you’ve read? Start with the stories about Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  I am sure you will be impressed and intrigued.  And shortly, you will discover that this God is the God you can trust—you can lean into—you can rest in.  And yes, you will soon discover that no matter what…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

“There’s No Place Like Home”

A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.” Proverbs 21.31

Dorothy was right.  When I was a kid one of the highlights of the year was when the Wizard of Oz would show on television.  Normally I attended church on Sunday nights with my brother and his family. On that night, church took a back seat to Dorothy, the tornado and those annoying munchkins.  I have to admit I was partial to the part where the wicked witch got what was coming to her.  “I’m melting, I’m melting.” Too bad, wicked witch, too bad.

The whole thing started because Dorothy was driven by fear away from home.  Some mean old lady was going to do away with her dog and Dorothy goes on the run taking Toto with her.  The famous tornado shows up, she is knocked on the noggin and wakes up in Oz…or at least she thinks she does.  To make a long story short, in the end she misses home…a lot.  The good witch tells her the secret.  Just tap her ruby red slippers together and repeat, “There is no place like home.”  Next thing we know she is back in Kansas with all her family and friends and she tells everyone, “There is indeed no place like home.”  End of story, have a nice day.  Thanks for reading.

No, wait…I’m just kidding.  That may be the end of that story, but it is just the beginning of this one.  You see there are more than a few similarities between Dorothy’s trip to Oz and our journey in and through this COVID time.  Like her, many find themselves in a place they never thought they would be…physically separated from their friends.  It might be on the golf course, at the park, your favorite restaurant or maybe, and perhaps most significantly, at your church.  And like her, they might not be sure exactly how to come back together…to come back home.  Do you sometimes feel that way?  I understand.

For Dorothy it was as simple as tapping her shoes together and whispering a few words.  For some, maybe you, it just isn’t that easy.  The justifiable fear might have us isolated, separated from friends.  Like Dorothy you long for home, but the circumstances that we live in has you in its jaws.  I stumbled onto a verse that just might help.  It is tucked away in Proverbs 21:31 and it says, “A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.”  Nice…very nice.

The author is saying a good soldier will train and prepare his horse for the battle.  That is the common sense thing…the wise thing to do. But the author also knows a secret—and it is a big one.  Ultimately the victory does not come from a well-trained horse, but rather from an incredibly powerful God.  That is crucial in our return back to normalcy—including our return to church.  We should use good common sense…you know, take precautions that you feel are wise.  But never, ever forget that your health and safety rest in the hands of a very power, very sovereign God.  You are literally sheltered in the arms of God.  So, be careful, be wise, but don’t be paralyzed.

By the way, General McArthur got it right too.  He was ordered from the Philippines and to Australia at the onslaught of World War II as the Japanese swept across the Pacific. He was forced to leave behind tens of thousands of troops…all about to be captured by a very fierce and merciless enemy.  As he left, he made a promise.  He boldly declared, “I shall return.”  At that particular point, he didn’t know exactly what that looked like, but he knew what it meant.  He was determined that his feet would once again walk on Philippine soil.  Well, it took almost four years, but he did indeed return and when he did, he changed the “shall” to “I have…I have returned.”  In the heat of the battle, he could be forced away, but nothing was going to keep him away forever.  Nothing.

So, what is your “I shall return” game plan.  Have you plotted your victorious return to normalcy…to worship and to church fellowship?  Again, we need to be cautious but that doesn’t necessarily mean the total absence of COVID.  Like McArthur it could mean that the tide of war has changed enough so that it is safe enough to return…safe enough to worship. Regardless of what church or what denomination, I hope you are plotting your return.

As you journey through your Oz, I hope, like Dorothy, that your faith in God and the hope of returning home will be greater than your fear.  Can it happen? Should it happen.  Absolutely is the answer to both questions. After all, the victory doesn’t rest in you, it rests in the hands of the Whisperer.  Listen carefully for His soft voice and you might hear Him saying, “There’s no place like home.”  Go ahead.  He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, life, priorities, Scripture, travel, wisdom

My Clock is a Liar

You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

My clock lies to me.  Throughout my life I have had times when I collect things.  Once it was eagles.  To this day I love eagles but there was a time I would go to the mall or any store that might sell them and tell Judy, “I’m going to look for eagles.”  If I found one, I would buy it.  Not too long ago it was BB guns.  It started with a Red Ryder model (the one from the movie, “A Christmas Story”).  The next thing I knew I had nine BB guns and pistols.  Boom. Just like that. Over the years urges have come and gone but there is one that has kinda stuck with me.  Clocks.

A long time ago (and in a galaxy far, far away…you know, like the Star Wars movies) I started collecting clocks.  Unlike eagles and BB guns, this one can get rather pricy.  But it started rather innocently.  When Judy and I were stationed in Germany near the French border, we went to a flea market with a couple of good friends.  My friend spied a German wall clock laying on the ground, halfway in a mud puddle and ended up buying it.  The long story made short is that I ended up talking him out of it.  It was a swap kinda thing.  It is a bing-bam clock which means it strikes on the hour and half-hour.  It was pretty old then, and now, 42 years later, it is like me, a lot older.

It is a special clock because of the story and all the memories but it does have a problem.  It lies.  You see, over the years it has developed this nasty habit of saying one thing and doing another.  As I mentioned, it is designed to bing-bam on the half-hour and then on the hour it counts the time out.  If it is 4:00 then it will bing-bam four times.  You can hear it shouting out the time almost throughout the house.  It was nostalgic and handy.  And then it starting lying. It started innocently enough—at 1:00 it would sound two times instead of once.  It was predictable so I just lived with it.  Now, well now, it lies big time.  Randomly, and throughout the day it sounds the wrong time.

Well, adjusting the clock is quite easy…or at least it is supposed to be.  So, if it was showing 4:00 but counting five, I would simply stopped the clock and moved the hour hand to five.  I waited an hour to restart the clock—problem solved—or not.  I restarted old faithful and at 6:00 it sounded five.  So, I slid the hour hand to 5:00 and waited and sure enough it chimed six.  No matter what I did the clock lied.  It has stubbornly developed a very bad habit. Hmmmm.

Fortunately for the old clock, I like it a lot. Its value to me goes way beyond its value as a time teller—it is part of the family.  Because of that, I’m willing to tolerate its bad habit.  I don’t like it.  I don’t trust it. It is frustrating, but in this case, it is mostly harmless.  I simply have learned to believe it when I can read the dial but not when I can only hear it.  It’s a negotiated settlement. That works fine for clocks—but it is not fine for people.

When I was growing up telling the truth was a pretty big deal.  Now, I would be the last to tell you that I always did it.  I didn’t.  But the bottom line was if you did the crime—you did the time.  Lie and get caught (and invariably I did) and Alston and Leslie (that’s daddy and mama) made sure you received a refresher course on the importance of telling the truth. Whether it was a spanking or washing my mouth out with soap—I learned lying was a bad deal.

I think daddy and mama must have talked to Jesus about it, because He thought it was a big deal too. One time, there was a group of religious leaders who had a problem speaking or even liking the truth.  Jesus cut loose on them and said, “You are just like your father the devil.  When he lies he is just speaking his natural language.  He is the father of lies and the truth is not in him.”  Wow—so if you ever wonder why lying made the big ten—now you know.

Today we live in a culture of convenience and whatever works for you—you kinda go with it.  If telling a lie makes things a little easier—just cut loose and worry about the consequences later. Its like the 60’s “if it feels good do it” on steroids.  Just know this.  No matter what culture says lying is a big deal—regardless if you are a preacher, a politician, or the guy next door.  God says it so it is a nonnegotiable for His followers. Oh, and even if you’re not a God follower you will still find life has fewer consequences and less regrets when you make the truth the standard.

As I finish this story, the old clock got it right.  An hour ago—it got it wrong.  Good grief…I just wish it would make up its mind to tell the truth.  Speaking of truth—here are two you can count on every time.  First…you can always trust and rest in creator God.  Second…He’s got this.  And that friend—is the truth. 

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Seasons come and seasons go.  Judy’s great nephew recently posted a picture on Facebook. It showed their son, maybe five years old, walking down his driveway.  On his back he carries a backpack that is just about as big as he is. He is heading to school—his first day of kindergarten. The first day of school is an event, even more so when it is kindergarten, especially for mom and dad. In the foreground of the picture, is a line of toys…I suppose some of his favorites.  The message was beautifully clear. As seasons change, as great adventures come along, as each new journey starts, sometimes you must leave what you love behind. It’s part of growing up—it’s part of life. I’m sure out of camera range was mom, and dad too, who watched through teary eyes.  Their little boy was growing up.  Seasons come and seasons go.

It happened a couple of weeks ago as fall silently arrived. Did you feel it? Did you sense it? Probably not.  For most it wasn’t even a blip on the calendar. There was no fanfare, no ticker-tape parade, no sounds trumpeting its arrival.  In many ways it was just a day on the calendar that most of us probably missed.  But not everyone missed it.  The trees took note.  Slowly and surely, their leaves began turning a beautiful yellow and red before drifting, floating to the ground.  The plants took note.  The shortening days began telling their leaves it was time to prepare for next spring by preparing for winter’s sleep.  And oh yes, the squirrels definitely knew it.  They began gathering their supply of acorns and pecans, tucking them away for the coming winter.  You see, fall is a time of transition…nature’s way of letting us know that another season is soon coming…Winter. And winter, like all the seasons, is something to celebrate—something to embrace.

For me the first day of fall was an event.  Every year I look forward to it. I told my wife that part of the mystery of fall is how something so beautiful prepares the way for a time of dormancy and sleep.  You might think of it as a time of things dying but you would be wrong.  No, it is a time of preparation and transition.  Remember…seasons come and seasons go. And in the beauty of fall we see the promise of spring, of new life.  It is that way for nature.  It is that way for us.  In the fall of our lives, things begin to change and it is God’s way of preparing us for new life, eternal life with Him. While we do have to walk through the winter of death, just on the other side is the eternal spring of heaven.  It is something to celebrate—something to embrace.

So, seasons come and go.  It is true in nature and it is true in life.  While the changing seasons sometimes bring challenges they also bring on exciting new adventures. Changing seasons on the calendar are something to celebrate—something to embrace.  It is God’s promise to us that something new is coming. The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that for everything there is a season—a time for every purpose under heaven.  He’s telling us that seasons come and seasons go. There are times for living and dying, playing and harvesting, dancing and sitting still. Yes, it is something to celebrate—and something to embrace.

As we casually flip the pages of the calendar, as the clock keeps ticking, leading us toward new seasons and new adventures, don’t get stuck in the cold of winter. No, remember this—spring is on the other side.  Every day is a gift from God and is a gentle nudge from our Dearest Daddy that He is preparing new seasons and new adventures for us.  Like our first day of kindergarten, it might mean leaving behind some of the things we love, but we can rest in Him knowing that only the best comes from Him and He never, ever gets it wrong.  Never. Sleep well tonight knowing that He who creates the days, masters the same.  Rest knowing that He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

“Firsts”

God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act?  Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”  Numbers 23:19

Saddle up your horses, boys, this is the great adventure.  I was 23 and Judy was 19 when we got on a plane and headed to Germany to live for three years.  Of all our adventures this one was one of the most special because it was the first.  And speaking of firsts, it was a series of many firsts for us.  It was our first trip out of the United States.  As great as our three years in Germany were—it was great to finally come home.  You know they say that there is no place like home—and they are correct.

I am a gadget guy and Germany held a couple of great gadget firsts.  First, if you were in the service (USAF) and went overseas anywhere—you bought a BIG stereo.  I had speakers the size of end tables and a rack of equipment that would make any audiophile jealous.  Receiver, equalizer, cassette recorder/player, reel to reel player/recorder was just the short list of my stereo gadgetry and I was proud of every piece.   I remember coming up with different sale pitches to Judy on why I just had to have whatever was next.  I was pretty good at it too.

It was in Germany that I got my first digital watch.  One of the pilots in my squadron called me over one day and said, “Hey Sergeant Taylor, check this out.”  It was a silver Casio LED digital watch with buttons and a screen.  I was instantly enamored. “Where did you get it, sir?” was the question and the J.C. Penney catalog was the answer.  Three things happened.  First, I checked it out—$69.00 (and trust me that was a chuck of money); two, convince Judy I had to have it.  Last, order it and wait a three weeks for the order to be mailed to America and the watch to make the return trip.  Finally it came. That same watch is $4.99 today.  Imagine that.

It was also in Germany that I learned the wonder of the microwave and got my first one.  There was only one brand in those days—an Amana Radar Range.  This is how it happened.  A senior NCO who attended our church told me one day, “I can boil water in a paper cup.”  I said, “No you can’t” and He said “Yes, I can.”  That resulted in a trip to his house where he promptly  put a paper cup in this magic machine and proceeded to boil water in a paper cup.  Done deal.  Had to have one. Amazingly, I was in the Base Exchange (the store on base) and there it was—an Amana Radar Range on clearance no less—for $370.00 dollars. Three things happened.  I convinced Judy we could not live without this modern marvel.  Two, I put it on layaway (remember that?). Lastly, I waited six weeks for three paydays to scrape up enough money to bring it home.  Finally we did, but you know you can only boil so many cups of water before it loses its pizzazz.

There was one more first thing that we got in Germany and it had to go into layaway too.  Midway through our last year in Germany, we learned that Judy was expecting our first daughter.  This time the layaway was for nine months.  We left Germany in August of 1980 and Rebecca Dawn was born in Missouri on January 24, 1981.  Unlike the microwave, she kept us pretty amazed day in and day out.  We were so amazed that we decided to get another one and just 19 months after we got Rebecca out of layaway, Jennifer Lynne came along.  I have to say we decided to wait awhile to do that again but it wasn’t for lack of pizzazz.

The firsts didn’t stop in Germany either.  I can still remember the day we discovered something called Walmart.  We were fresh home from three years in Germany and were setting up our home in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We needed a trash can or something and went with what we were familiar with—TG&Y. It was a five and dime kind of story that we had in South Georgia.  Judy called it “Tator, Gator, and Yator.” Don’t ask me why, but it stuck.  So anyway, TG&Y didn’t have what we were looking for so I asked a clerk to be sure we weren’t missing it.  She confirmed they didn’t have it and suggested we try the Walmart down the road.  To this day, I remember my reply, “What’s a Walmart?”  Apparently while we were gone to Germany this new store started sweeping the Midwest and then the country. In 1980, Walmart 296 stores and today there are 11,501.  How amazing is that?

What makes life so interesting is that there is always one more first. Things change—the old moves to the rearview mirror as the next new thing appears in the windshield.  And do you know what?  I’m good with that.  But I am also glad that there are things that remain.  Tonight I saw another beautiful sunset personally painted by the God of the galaxies.  It was amazing.  Tonight, Judy once again confirmed that she liked me and loved me.  I thought that was pretty cool.  I told her she had way too much invested to start over.  She told me she didn’t want to anyway. Nice. But it doesn’t stop there.  In fact, that’s just the beginning.

You see,  the Bible says “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” The answer is No and No.  He is faithful…He can be trusted. I’m glad we have a God that doesn’t change nor change His mind.  He loves me and you today and He will love us tomorrow.  A zillion, billion years from today—He will still be loving me.  That’s good to know.  It’s good to know that tonight I will lay my head down on my pillow and rest—rest in knowing that I’m in His care.  I am not subject to circumstance, accident or happenstance.  He holds me, and He holds you—tight.  And tomorrow I’m going to wake up—either here or in an awesome place called heaven—my final first.  Either way, no matter what, He’s got this—and that is enough.

Posted in Family, Grace, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Alexa….STOP THE MUSIC!

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

I am so easily distracted.  I mean if there is more than one thing going on at a time I flounder.  One of the great miracles of modern time is that when I am on stage speaking, I walk, talk and breathe all at the same time.  Probably more of a miracle is the fact that I have not fallen off the stage—yet. I’m sure there is a syndrome or something for people like me—I think they spell it “man” or “men,” if it is plural.

I try to have a quiet time each morning.  A quiet time is when you set apart some time to read the Bible and pray.  It is a great way to begin or end the day.  The name is very appropriate.  For me, it must be quiet.  Sometimes I like to change things up, and in the process get too many things going on—which usually means more than one.  It’s like going through a buffet line. We have to be careful not to get too much on our plate.  Well, sometimes that happens to me in my quiet time. Let me explain.

First, I do my quiet time thing on my iPad.  I use the YouVersion app and it is just incredible.  If you own a smartphone or a tablet of some sort you can download the app from the Apple or Android store for free.  It has all kinds of devotions and reading plans as well as a zillion translations of the Bible.  Even if you speak Swahili, they can fix you up.  No kidding.  One of the totally cool features of the app is that it will read the Bible to you. Amazing.

Well, the other day, I was about to start my quiet time and decided I would try some soft music. I asked Alexa, who lives with Judy and me, to play some music. I said, “Alexa please play Christian instrumental music on Pandora.”  As always, she was so kind and said she would be glad to do that.  In a few seconds beautiful music was wafting through the air in my office.  Then I opened my YouVersion app and began to read.  I was able to pull that off pretty well, but I really had to concentrate on the words on the page and not the words of the songs that were playing.  Just to be as clear as mud, the words weren’t really playing—they were just playing in my head. I told you, I get easily distracted.

Well, scripture is a part of most every devotion in YouVersion so after I had read the devotion, I mashed the button that started the app reading to me.  That’s when things went south.  The beautiful music is wafting through the air and now this guy was reading God’s word to me and the two collided in my brain.  I found I couldn’t focus on either one.  The same thing happens when I am watching the news and Judy comes in and starts chatting.  It is an audio disaster.  And then, as if it couldn’t, it got worse.

In my home office I have several clocks and one of them plays the beautiful Westminster chimes. Well, while my brain was struggling with the music and the guy reading to me—the clock went off. It was the top of the hour and it began playing its melody.  And what would normally be one of my favorites sounds, all of a sudden pushed me over the edge.  If a quiet time is supposed to make you more spiritual…it, or rather I, failed.  As the music is wafting, the guy is reading, and the clock is dinging—I lost it.

With all that going on, I shouted, yes shouted, at my friend Alexa, “Alexa, STOP THE MUSIC!” Oh my, did I feel bad.  She did and at about the same time the clock stopped dinging and the guy stopped reading.  Suddenly…there were only the sounds of silence and the Whisperer whispering, “Dewayne, it’s ok.  Don’t let all this stuff that doesn’t matter get to you.  Just listen for Me and to Me and everything else will fall into place.”  That’s it.  That was the message for the quiet time that day.  I told my Father I was sorry for getting all frustrated and, as always, He gently whispered words of forgiveness.

In the Bible a woman named Martha got all frustrated and distracted too and Jesus told her the same thing.  He told her not what she wanted to hear but what she needed to hear. He told her that she was all worked up over nothing.  I guess it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who gets distracted and frustrated. Did I mention annoyed? Jesus invited Martha to come have a seat with Him and rest and it’s the same invitation He gives us.  I like that.  And do you know what? No matter the mess, it’s just good to know that He’s got this.

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

Blueberry Crumble and More

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4

I love dessert.  My journey with dessert goes back to my earliest memories.  Whether it was a biscuit with cane syrup and butter or a cake or pie from mama’s oven—I loved dessert.  Sometimes when there was nothing else, I would grab a teaspoon from the drawer and shovel in a teaspoon of sugar.  Hey, when it’s all you have—it’s all that you have.

Two dessert memories spring from my earlier years.  I remember my mama having to have surgery when I was about 10 years old.  Two things happened during that time that were monumental.  First, dad took care of us.  Daddy was a bring-home-the-bacon kind of guy and mom took care of the kids and the house. Well, with her in the hospital and daddy not cooking much—things were a bit different in the kitchen.  I remember one night we were coming home from the hospital and daddy stopped at a place called Milligan’s Burgers and I had my first taste of a fast-food hamburger.  It was kinda like a Krystal Burger and it was a big deal.

Something else that happened during mama’s hospital stay showed her love for me and solidified my love for desserts.  During her stay, the “three-little-ones” and my daddy made our nightly visit to the hospital.  We walked into her room and there she was in her hospital bed with the tray thing (much like today) beside her bed.  She said, “Dewayne, I saved you something from my supper.”  There on her tray in a small bowl was a serving of “blueberry crunch.” It was like a small blueberry, crunch top pie and it was delicious.  To this day I never eat anything blueberry with a crunch top without thinking about my mama’s love.

Years later, my oldest brother and I were visiting another brother out in Texas.  It was a man-trip that included driving all night, camping in the mountains, and eating.  When we got back from the mountain part, we had a last supper of sorts, and his wife made cherry cheesecake.  Well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven and ate a whole lot more than I should have.  After supper we hit the road for the long drive back to Florida and before long, I wished I could die and go to heaven.  All that cherry cheesecake started rolling around in my belly and we had to make more than one stop—and it wasn’t for gas.

Yup…dessert and I go way back. When we go visit someone for supper, I always enjoy the food and fellowship, but I also always hold back a little room for dessert.  I know the best is yet to come.  The story is told of a woman who wanted to be buried with a spoon in her casket.  When asked why, she said, “Well, when I go to someone’s house for supper, the hostess will lean down and say, “Be sure and keep your spoon.”  I always smile when that happens because I know that means that there is dessert and the best is yet to come.”  I like that.

In this crazy, upside down world of the never-ending story of COVID, racial injustice, violence and what’s sure to be a crazy election time, we probably should all carry a spoon in our pocket.  You ask, “Why should we do that?”  Well, it would remind us that this crazy world is not the end.  It would remind us that for every person who is Christ follower, who can call God Dearest Father, there is more—much more.  That beyond this life is eternal life—that the best is surely yet to come.

I am so grateful for the life that God has given me.  Like a delicious meal filled with good old Southern comfort food, I enjoy each day…mostly.  Honestly though, life is filled too with warts, bumps and more than a few bruises.  But it seems like at the table of this banquet called life, I can hear the Whisperer lean over and say, “Be sure and keep your spoon.”  When that happens, I know He is reminding me that the best is yet come.  As good as life is here, it is going to be a million times better there.  The Bible speaks of heaven as a place of no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no separation and no more death.  It is like dessert on steroids.  I. Can’t. Wait.

Well, I know I need to keep my love affair with desserts in check.  Both my doctor and my wife Judy remind me of that.  But each time I get to indulge, you can take it to the bank that I’m gonna remember that there is more than this hot mess coming and it is going to be good.  You know, sometimes when Judy is cooking I go in and sneak a taste.  I love to sneak a bite of cookie dough when she isn’t looking.  It’s just a sample of the finished product.  Take time today to crawl up with Jesus and take a rest.  It will just be a taste of what is coming in eternity…just enough to keep you wanting as you wait.  And then, remember this…that the Master Maker of dessert—God—has all this under control.  Yup…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Here’s a Tip

For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NLT)

You’ve got to be kidding me.  I started working real jobs when I was fifteen.  Back in those days you had to be at least fifteen to get a work permit and a social security number.  When that happened, I started working at a restaurant as a dishwasher for 75 cents an hour.  Later I moved up in the world working as a “bag boy” at a grocery store.

It’s funny how certain memories stay with you from your early years.  I remember mom and dad driving me to and from work since I wasn’t old enough to drive.  A little later I finally got my license and I remember the thrill and anxiety as I drove myself the six or seven miles to the “Food Fair.”  My responsibilities were to bag the people’s groceries and carry them to their car. I can’t remember how much I made per hour but I believe it was bumped up from the restaurant gig to a whopping $1.25 plus tips. The standard tip, if you got one, was a quarter.  It was a big day, like “ring the bell” big, if you got a dollar.  It was a rare thing—something akin to winning the lottery. Well, one Saturday “it” happened.  No, not that “it.” It was this bag boy’s worse nightmare.

Saturday was the big shopping day at the grocery store so we were busy.  All the lanes were open and we were bagging like crazy—cans on the bottom and bread on top. It wasn’t uncommon to scan the lines to get what appeared to be the best bagging gig.  You wanted a customer who looked generous with an order big enough to get a tip but not too big.  You know, the whole balance of the universe thing.  Then I saw her. A lady was in line and she had four or five carts full of groceries. She must have only shopped for groceries once a year.  This one was a gamble but it could be the golden dollar tip or even more.  I was in.

Off we went.  The cashier was ringing it up and I was bagging it. On and on it went.  Finally, after what seemed hours, the last item was rang up and in the bag.  The order was somewhere over $140.  Keep in mind this was 1970 and that was a lot of money and a lot of groceries. Payday was in sight.  And then she said it, “I think you overcharged me. I want to see the manager.” Well, this was not going to be good.  He came over and the decision was made to re-ring the entire order. Bummer.

I began to take each item out of the dozens of bags and the cashier began to re-ring the order.  After a year or so (ok, it only seemed like a year) the new total was in and it was actually more than the first time. Good grief.  Well, she wasn’t happy but she did pay the bill. Off we went with a “wagon-train” of grocery carts and I filled the back of her “ark” sized car and back seat.  All I could think of was dollars…that was a mistake.  She gave me the grand total, the whopping amount of—nothing.  Zero. Nada. All that was given was a curt thank-you and I was left standing there. No tip. No big payday. Nothing. I was disappointed and devastated.  I had taken the gamble and lost.  Like Kenny Roger’s song, I should have known when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, and when to walk away”.

Well, that story wedged its way into my memory.  I know she wasn’t pleased, but it wasn’t my fault. Yet the kid who’s “take home” was hugely supplemented by quarters was left holding the bag—no pun intended.  That might be the reason that I have learned to be sure and thank the ones who serve me.  Just like me back then, those who serve us today are largely dependent on our generosity.  I remember my daughter worked at a restaurant for a time.  She has one of those really good personalities and I know she did a great job.  But she told me one day how the ones who tipped the least were the Jesus crowd.  I said, “Are you sure?”  And she affirmed what she said. Hmmm.

A friend of mine told a story of a customer who had a $36.00 tab and left a dollar tip.  Too many times there is nothing.  By now you are saying, “Dewayne, have you lost your mind writing about tipping?”  I’m not writing about tipping…I’m writing about generosity.  You see, if anyone should be generous it should be the Jesus people.  We have experienced the generosity of the greatest giver of all—our Dearest Daddy—who gave His Son so that we could become family.  If we have experienced such grace, shouldn’t we extend such grace—such generosity?  I think so.

It has been said that we Jesus people are the only Bible some people will ever read. It just seems to make sense that we should make sure we are turning to the right pages in that Bible as we do life.  And by the way, that mixed up order, that slow order probably rests on someone besides the server.  And by the way, God doesn’t just show His generosity when we get it right—He’s generous regardless.  So, Jesus person, Christian, believer—whatever name you go by, let’s be sure that the example we set for those around us—whether they serve us at a restaurant or pick up our trash—point to Jesus. When that seems hard—just rest in Him.  If it seems impossible—don’t worry, do it anyway, He’s got this.

Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

History and Hope

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

It was a bright, wonderfully normal September morning and then everything changed.  Nineteen years ago today our country found itself under attack by terrorists on a scale that was beyond almost everyone’s imagination. More amazingly it played out on national television for all of us to witness and mourn.

That morning I walked into the church office like dozens of times before…only this time was different.  As I entered the door the secretary asked if I had heard that a plane had crashed into one of the world trade buildings.  “Really?” I asked almost casually.” “Was it a big one or what?”  She didn’t know and then I went into my office and slowly the news begin to spread.  A large airliner had been hijacked and flown into one of the towers.  Shortly, again on live television, we were shocked beyond belief as a second airliner flew into the other tower.  And then—both towers collapsed.  Even as I write this it doesn’t seem possible—but many of us saw it with our own eyes. Later another airliner crashed into the Pentagon. And there was more. Another hijacked aircraft heading to yet another target was taken back from the terrorists by a bunch of heroes. It crashed into a Pennsylvania field saving hundreds or maybe even thousands of lives.

The days that followed were like something we have never seen before.  All flights in over the United States were grounded.  New York, ground zero, was shutdown.  People huddled over televisions soaking up any and all news and in the process becoming more and more afraid.  To many it seemed like the end of the world as we knew it.  And I suppose in some ways it was. We needed a miracle—we needed an encounter with the living God.

In a matter of a couple of days we witnessed something else.  We saw something that was tremendously encouraging and a short time later something that was tremendously sad.  First, we witnessed a coming together of the two major political parties in America.  We watched as Democrats and Republicans stood on the Capital steps together and sang “God Bless America.”  We were amazed.  We were encouraged.  It was one of our finest hours in the modern era and it was woefully short.  Within a day, the finger pointing started as one party started blaming the other and sadly we found ourselves divided.  In a time when we desperately needed to be together we were apart.

Fast forward 19 years and we find ourselves in yet another extremely difficult time.  It is totally different and yet eerily similar.  We are facing circumstances that have not been seen in modern times.  The death toll is higher and the enemy faceless.  And this time…we skipped the moment of unity and went straight to the finger pointing. We are a nation divided when we desperately need to be a nation united. Just like 19 years ago we are in desperate need of God and His healing power. The only hope lies in the living Hope—Jesus Christ.

God has put in place the army He intends to use.  It is not Democrat, it is not Republican, it is you and I—it is His church-the body of Christ.  If there was ever a time when followers of Jesus need to act like followers of Jesus—it is now.  It is not a time for bigotry or nor is it a time for fussing over things that don’t matter.  It is not a time for circling the wagons and defending the fort.  It is a time to share the love, the kindness, the grace that every Jesus follower has experienced.  It is time to give what we have been given.

I don’t know what this world is going to look like over the next few years.  What I do know is that if this army of Jesus people will be Jesus to the world around us—it can, it will be a better place.  Will it be perfect?  Of course not—after all experiencing God’s grace doesn’t make us perfect—it makes us forgiven and forgiven people forgive others. Jesus said “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”  Wow—there is so much power—so much purpose—in that one statement.

It has been said that if a people does not learn from history they can only be destined to repeat it.  In some ways I’m afraid that has become a reality.  But it is not too late.  So Jesus people, people who call Creator God, Dearest Father, let’s determine today to give up our fear, our anxiety, our pride and our prejudice and let’s rest in Him.  He is big enough, He is strong enough, He is compassionate enough and believe me, He’s got this.