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

Gratitude

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I was the leader of the pack.  When I was growing up in the 60’s, things were just a little bit different.  In my school there were a zillion kids and in my church youth group I was one or two years older than most of the other kids.  That became important when I turned sixteen and was eligible to get a driver’s license.  I remember I got my license before I attended driver’s education and I got a car before anyone else at church.  I was the leader of the pack.

Today, whenever I drive by the local school and look in the parking lot I am always saddened.  The lot is filled with fancy cars and trucks the likes that were never seen in my 1970 world.  A few kids did have nice cars, but most were leftovers and hand-me-downs.  Oh, I’m glad for the kids but I just hate they are not going to experience the joy of owning a 1960 Rambler.

Unlike today, it was not an automatic deal to get a car when you turned sixteen.  Get a license and you get a car is the general rule today. When I turned sixteen you got the right to ask dad to borrow the family car…occasionally.  Only the coolest kids got to actually own a car—and I was about to get cool.  My sister and brother-in-law lived in Daytona Beach and he had a car that he drove back and forth to work.  When he upgraded, rather than sell his old one, they told my mom and dad that they were willing to give it to me.

Then, and even more now, I realize just how generous that was.  It wasn’t necessarily the value of the car as it was them thinking how that just might increase my standing in the world.  Dewayne Taylor…car owner.  Oh, yes, things were about to get better…much better.  So one day, they drove the car up to Jacksonville and pulled in the driveway.  There she was.  I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me she was beautiful.

She was a 1960 Rambler Deluxe.  Now in case you don’t know, Rambler was a division of American Motors which of course is now a part of car history.  This beautiful hunk of metal was…well…unique.  It was hand-painted (as in with a brush) a deep royal blue color.  The brush marks only added to it’s uniqueness.  Right down the middle of the body was a bold yellow racing stripe.  Having lived most of its life near the ocean it probably had an equal amount of metal and Bondo filler in the body.  It was powered by a straight line 6 cylinder, 195 cubic inch monster producing 127 horsepower with a very pronounced rod knocking.  Anything over 35 miles per hour and the engine sounded like a professional drummer going wild on a trap set. She boasted a three speed manual on the column.  It wasn’t exactly a muscle car but she was mine.

One of the first things my dad and I did was go to Sears and buy a set of seat-covers.  This was 1970 so we bought navy blue covers plastered with bright red and yellow flowers.  To enhance its racing car mystic, I even installed a tachometer on the dash.  I was ready.  My job bagging groceries at Food Fair provided gas money and I was the indeed the leader of the pack. I became the “go to” guy for social events.  “Hey, wanna go horseback riding on Saturday? Great, I’ll pick you up.” “Wanna go to the movies Friday night?  Be at your house at 6:00.” Yup, life was good.

The old Rambler lasted somewhere over a year and the old engine just kept on knocking.  It was the clutch that finally gave out.  Dad decided it wasn’t worth fixing so it eventually found its way to the junk yard.  No, there wasn’t a big, fancy replacement.  It was back to borrowing when I could.  But for those months…I was the leader of the pack and I was grateful.

One of the things we have lost over the years is gratitude.  Somewhere we have almost lost the fine art of being grateful for the little and big things that come our way.  We stopped being thankful and instead become jealous of what others have.  It leads to a vicious cycle of keeping up with the Jones.  In case you don’t know, they are the couple down the street that always seem to have more than you.  We work longer hours, carry way too much debt and still have the gnawing feeling that we need, we deserve, more.  We believe the commercial line, “we deserve a break today” only it isn’t for a burger built our way.

The Book has a lot to say about gratitude and commitment.  Paul, one of the New Testament writers, said he had learned the secret of being content with whatever, whenever. Do you know where he was when he wrote those words? He was sitting in a Roman prison waiting for them to decide when they were going to kill him.  Incredible. The secret?  Faith in Jesus Christ.  He went on to say, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” He was saying his faith in God was enough.  Everything else was gravy. I’m not saying every car in the lot needs to be a Rambler but I am saying one of the best gifts you can give your kids is the gift of gratitude…teaching them to be thankful for simple things…the little things…things like an old Rambler with more Bondo filler than metal.  Teach them to be content.  Of course there’s a catch.  You kinda have to understand that yourself before you can teach them.  Tell you what.  Sometime today why don’t you take time and talk to your Heavenly Father about contentment.  He’ll probably whisper, “I’m enough. Rest in Me. I’ve got this.”  He is, we should, and He does. 

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Chicken Little

I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Job 42:2

Poor Chicken Little.  He had it all wrong.  The story is told of a little chicken (aptly named Chicken Little) who was walking one day and a bird dropped an acorn which hit him on the head.  Chicken Little assumed that the sky was falling and the world as he knew it was coming to an end.  He rushed to tell the king and along the way told others of the bad news. They in turn joined him in the quest to tell the king. The only problem was the sky wasn’t falling.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I wrestled with fear.  There was the standard fear of the dark.  When the lights went out, my heart rate went up.  My vivid imagination allowed for plenty of strange things to be seen in the darkness and sometimes even in the light.  I remember as a six or seven year old sitting in the bathtub and seeing “eyes” peering at me from inside the overflow drain.  “Maybe it is a snake” I thought.  “Perhaps it was a giant rat that lived inside the drain.”  Regardless, for years I lived in fear until one day I got brave.  I took a flashlight into the bathroom and shined the light in the drain.  It turned out to be the tops of two brass screws inside the drain!

When I was a little older the fear thing still lingered.  With too many people and not enough house, I found myself sleeping in the dining room.  Mom and dad moved the table somewhere and put a twin bed there instead.  We lived in Florida and trust me it was HOT and it was HUMID and air conditioning was something that we DIDN’T have.  Each night I would crawl into bed, a fan in the window at least stirring the warm evening air. And each night the monsters would come out.  Of course they weren’t real.  Of course they didn’t exist. Right…but try telling that to a young boy with a vivid imagination.

I had to do something and I did.  I would reach down and pull the sheet and bedspread over my head and lie still.  I don’t know if the idea was the sheet and bedspread would somehow protect me or if they simply would hide me.  But there I would lie hiding, sweating and praying that whatever hid in the darkness wouldn’t eat me.  I guess it worked because I’m still here today but boy was it HOT!

I guess I finally overcame most of my fears. I have to admit though when Bubba the goose hisses at me in the park, it still makes my skin kinda tingle. To some degree fear is still a stalker in my life.  Instead of snakes in a drain or monsters in the dark or bad guys in the house it has become the uncertainty of these uncertain days.  And I know I am not alone.  Every time we turn on the news we are told that the sky is indeed falling and that the end of world as we know it is coming.  As I waited for the morning weather forecast today, a story popped up on the screen about a new strain of the swine flu in China that could or would certainly be the next pandemic.  What? Excuse me?

I am a guy who gets to serve God and people as a pastor and there is one thing I know.  God is in charge and He is bigger than any of it and all of it.  You may have heard of a guy named Job—and no he was not related to Steve Jobs. (Smile)  His sky in fact did fall and he ended up losing everything.  Well, actually his “why don’t you give up and die” wife stuck around but so did his faith in God.  In fact, in the midst of his hot mess, Job said this, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Score one for Job.  He believed that God was in charge, that God had a plan and that nothing was going to happen on His watch unless He said so.

Now that is some real good, real comforting, real “you take that fear” news.  But you also need to know that sometimes that can be hard.  God’s plans don’t always mean I get what I want…in fact, often it means the opposite.  But hey, I was the guy who manufactured monsters in his head.  But it still means that God is good, that God is faithful and that God can be trusted.  It does mean that He is watching out for my good and He is working to bring His glorious plan to pass. A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it is time that we turn off the bad news.  I agree.  The broadcasters know that bad news “sells” and they are dishing it out by the buckets full.  Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor from World War II said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed.  If you look within, you will be depressed.  But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” What powerful and true words.  If you are not a God follower perhaps this sounds a little far fetched.  Trust me…He is worth checking out. He is the real deal…not church…not religion…and certainly not the fear mongers. You can rest in Him…because He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, missions, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

Forty-four Years

So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Ephesians 5:16-17

Forty-four years.  16,071 sunrises and sunsets.  That’s the length of the on-going saga of our story.  It seems like yesterday but it also seems like another lifetime.  We both were young… maybe too young. But we were in love, we wanted to walk together so that day, this day forty-four years later, we started walking and just never stopped.

We were chatting last night before we drifted off to sleep and I told her we were blessed.  There have been bumps but not the kind of bumps that come from wanting to quit or wanting something new.  They were the kind of bumps that come from life.  The death of our parents, starting over when the Air Force or God gave new orders, kids being kids and people being people, and yes, me being me and her being her.  But what a journey.

Forty-four years.  I remember the excitement of our wedding day.  I in my snazzy light-blue tux and patent leather high heeled shoes (hey, cut me some slack…it was the seventies) and her standing at the back of the church in her white wedding dress and long brown hair.  Her standing and then walking…walking to me to join me…to start life together.  I was marrying up…and well.

Forty-four years.  I remember embarking on the first of many great adventures as we flew to Europe not for a honeymoon but to live.  The Air Force sent us to live in Germany and while the separation from family was hard…life was enchanting.  I remember looking out our apartment window overlooking an alpine valley with the trees covered with a light dusting of snow. I remember our German landlord knocking on our door and presenting my new bride with a freshly skinned rabbit.  He was beaming and she was wondering, “What do I do with this?”

Forty-four years.  I remember coming back to the USA after three years and seeing our country through new eyes.  Leave for a while and you never see it quite the same.  Leave for a while and the warts and imperfection all fall into perspective.  I remember traveling to the Midwest for the first time and finding out that not everyone liked grits or even knew what they were.  I remember the birth of our first daughter and realizing that we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

Forty-four years.  I remember daughter number two surprising us…and what a good surprise it was.  Our family was complete (or not) and our future secure in the Air Force…until the Whisperer whispered. So long Air Force and hello pastoring and walking by faith. With a young wife and two kids ages three and two, no insurance and a pastorate that paid $12,000..well, faith was a little harder…a little less sure. About then I began to realize just how big, how sure, God is.  I’m still learning that one but He has a perfect track record.

Forty-four years.  I remember the day when we had to pack up and leave a bunch of people we loved a lot and that loved us a lot.  With a station-wagon and a U-Haul stuffed to the gills we moved to a little town called Cobden.  It was new all over again and we fell in love again with another wonderful group of people.  It was at Cobden that God surprised us with daughter number three.  It was at Cobden we raised our family because God let us stay 14 years.  It was at Cobden we learned deep lessons of love and grace.  After fourteen years the Whisperer whispered again and we knew we had to obey.  It was one of the hardest things we ever did.

Forty-four years.  I remember coming to Harrisburg and to Dorrisville Church and wondering how God would write this new part of our story.  I remember wondering how long this chapter would be.  Well, here we are 20 years into this part of our story—almost half of our married lives—and I am still amazed at God’s grace and His people’s patience.  Our kids are grown, we have eight grandkids and Judy and I are experiencing what it is like to grow old together.  I highly recommend it.

Forty-four years.  James, the half-brother of Jesus tells us that life is like a vapor.  In other words it goes by quickly.  Remember how you breathe on a cold morning and your breath appears as if smoke?  As quickly as it appears…it leaves.  That’s life. I am amazed at my age, the length of our marriage and just how awesome life has been been…and is.  Paul, another Bible guy, had it right.  He says, “So watch your step. Use your head. Make the most of every chance you get. These are desperate times! Don’t live carelessly, unthinkingly. Make sure you understand what the Master wants.” Good advice, Paul, good advice indeed. Forty-Four years.  Yup, life is good.  I’m still in love with Jesus, still in love with Judy, and still in love with my kids and grandkids.  I get up each day just waiting to see what God has in store…waiting for the next whisper…the next great adventure.  Till then I bet you can guess what I’m going to do.  Yup…I’m going to rest in Him.  He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Southern born, thankful

Stonehenge

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Roy Smith Allen was a genuine, authentic, real-deal Southern good ole boy.  I met him on the road to falling in love with his daughter.  I can remember virtually every detail of meeting Judy but Roy, well, its like one minute he wasn’t there and the next he was.  I met Judy at her church on a Wednesday night.  I walked in the side door and she was standing with a group of five or six girls.  It was as if the others weren’t even there.  She stole the show…and my heart.

I found out that when I started dating Judy, I also started dating her family.  They were a crazy bunch of fun-loving people who turned every get together into a ruckus of stories and one-uppers.  Right in the middle of the craziness was Roy.  Well, for some reason, Roy took a shine to me.  Judy will tell you that both of her parents liked me more than her. That probably wasn’t true. But I guess they trusted me because truth be known she was a little too young and I was a little too old. But here we are forty-four years later so we must have met somewhere in the middle.

Roy was a hard core, church going, deacon. He worked for the county as the superintendent of roads and had been the assistant warden at the county work camp.  He had a gun…he carried a gun.  He told Judy and I upfront he didn’t believe in pre-marshall (translated premarital) sex.  We both agreed with that so the gun stayed in the holster which was a good thing.

About nine months after I started dating Judy, I asked her to marry me.  It happened to be on April Fool’s Day which was kinda funny.  But I was dead serious and happily she said yes.  So, by now Roy had become Pops to me.  So I knew I had to ask him if I could marry Judy.  After his first heart attack, his doctor suggested he begin a walking regimen. One evening I joined him walking around the track at the park and I said, “Pops, I would like to marry Judy.”  It wasn’t a question but it was a statement that needed a response and he gave one.  “No you don’t, boy.”  Pops called me “boy” a lot.  It wasn’t derogatory but more akin to him calling me “son.”

I persisted and said, “No really, I want to marry Judy.”  He stoically gave the same answer, “No you don’t, boy.”  Well, I can’t remember how many times we bantered back and forth but eventually I took it as a yes.  We were officially engaged…as soon as I could afford a ring.

Somewhere along the journey, her parents allowed me to stay in the spare bedroom at their house on weekends.  The base was about twenty-five miles away so it seemed to make some sense.  Pops liked to get up early and work hard and I became the “young buck” of his Saturday operations . He was building a shed about 20 miles out in the country and he saw in me some free labor.  So, he would come in the bedroom at about 4:30 am and declare, “Time to get up, boy.”  I would groggily roll out of bed.  We would head to the Gold Plate Restaurant for a hearty breakfast with hot, strong coffee and then head to the building site where I wished I hadn’t eaten quite so much.

Pops had acquired some huge, like 10×10 inch, used bridge timbers from the county.  While he supervised, I began digging holes and setting these monstrous beams.  Then, we (make that me) had the pleasure of trying to hoist them up to form the roof.  Well, it near-bout killed me.  We never finished the building and I am sure forty-four years later those timbers are probably still standing like some sort of South Georgia Stonehenge.

In the fall of 1975, at church one morning, I went from being a church goer to a Jesus follower.  That day I finally figured out that being religious was not the same as having a relationship with Jesus.  It was and is a big deal.  Everyone was really happy that I had made that commitment.  There were plenty of hugs and words of affirmation but none matched Pop’s.  He simply said, “I knew there was something wrong with you, boy.” It was apparent Pops wasn’t gifted in the affirmation department.  But that was Roy…that was Pops.  I was pretty sure he loved me and I know loved him…especially since he didn’t shoot me.

So, about a year later, Judy and I were married and in spite of a bad heart he was there to walk her down the aisle.  When Judy and I were assigned to Germany, Pops flew there twice to see us.  When we were assigned to Missouri, here came Pops.  He came out to see our new daughter and his new granddaughter, Rebecca.  And then just six weeks later he was apparently working in his backyard there in South Georgia and sat down to rest.  Sometime during the break, Jesus came and took him home.  Pops was gone but the legend, the legacy lives on.

Roy Smith Allen had a lot of rough edges, a lot of warts, if you will.  But buried somewhere beneath the rough exterior was a good hearted man.  I’m sure he required a lot of God’s grace but don’t we all?  None us could make the cut for heaven based on our own merit.  We all are just like Pops…sinners in need of a graceful, loving God.  The Book says that Jesus came to seek and to save lost people.  People like Roy, people like me and people like you.  And if we are willing to be found, He is will to forgive us and invite us into His family.  In his backward way, that is what Pops did.  Every time he called me “boy” he was calling me “son.”  I like that. So if you find yourself bumping along in life, rough around the edges, you might try what Pops tried.  It wasn’t church…it was Jesus.  I know it changed my life. It didn’t make me perfect but it did make me forgiven.  And the best part?  In this crazy, upside-down world, He is always there.  I can always go to Him, rest in Him.  I know, He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, Southern born

Five-Eight or Seven…Just About Right

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:26

I think I have figured it out.  From the time I could remember my mom always told me, “Dewayne, I think you are going to be six feet tall when you grow up.”  I believe she based that on the fact that I kinda looked like my brother Joe and he was somewhere near that.  Anyway, I grew up with the expectation that I would, well, grow up.  Somewhere something got lost in the translation.

The bottom line is for all of my life I have been “height challenged”.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been but it was apparent early on that mom had misjudged the gene pool.  Unless a miracle was on the horizon the height expectations needed to be lowered…a lot.  By the time I was in the eight grade I was still about five-six.  I had managed to lose some of my pudginess but I just came up short (pun intended) on the height deal.

When I was in the ninth grade I was at the top of the pecking order grade wise. In Florida ninth grade was still in Junior High.  I, we ninth graders were the kings of the campus…even if you were a tad short.  Well one day in class the teacher stepped out of the room.  A guy I knew, and he might have even been a friend, grabbed my pencil and said he was going to break it.  “Don’t do it, man” I said in my deepest, tallest voice.  He kept threatening to break it and I kept threatening to break him.  He broke it and I exploded.

Now before we go on you need to know I was a pretty compliant kid.  I am a conflict avoidance adult and I was a conflict avoidance kid.  Something just snapped.  I flipped the table over on him, put him in a head hold and proceeded to teach him not to break my pencil.  Can someone said, “Stupid?”  Well, the teacher walks in, someone breaks up the fight and we get a free trip to the principal’s office.  Judgement was swift and right to seat of the problem.  Two swats a day for five days administered by the athletic director.  He was not five-six.

So for the next five days it was report first thing in the morning to his office, bend over and grab your ankles and two hard swats.  Pow—pow.  Swift, powerful and man did they hurt.  And they worked. I always left with a strong desire to join the Peace Corps. I never got into another fight.  Break my pencil?  Sure go right ahead. I have a spare. I always wondered what sparked that outburst.  I think I know.  It was short man syndrome or SMS.

I found out that SMS is “an angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his short stature.” I’m pretty sure that is what happened that day.  I was wanting some respect and was willing to act stupid to get it. Did I mention two swats a day for five days?  So, that week, about day three and swat number six I got over my syndrome and a chunk of my anger.  I was just fine at five-six.  Fortunately the Lord gave me a couple of more inches and I ended up at a respectable five-eight.  However, I think I am back down to five-seven now.  You know, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  Smile.

I really did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You should never, and I mean never, let your anger get the best of you.  Anger is not a sin when it is controlled and directed in the right direction.  Jesus got angry at the people who were abusing His Father’s house. So the problem isn’t anger—the problem is control—or lack of it. Paul wrote about this when he said, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Keep your temper tame and don’t let it simmer over night.  It’s great for a pork butt but terrible for anger.  And every time we don’t, we give Satan the opportunity to win. And, when he wins…we lose.  Every time. So, I’ve learned to be happy where I am. I think five-eight or seven is just about right. I’m still taller than Judy and she thinks I’m tall, or at least tallish, dark and handsome.  Also, I’m learning not to lose it because I always lose when I do. And, I am learning to trust in Him.  If someone breaks my pencil I just let God handle it.  It’s much better than visiting the coach every morning for five days.  There’s something else. I found out that when I’m not facing the coach in the morning, I rest better…especially in Him.  I fall to sleep knowing, “He’s got this.”  And He does.

Posted in food, life, Scripture, Southern born

Stupid Watermelon

For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:3-4

I should have just stayed home.  You probably don’t know there is such a thing as a stupid watermelon but if you live long enough you will surely run into one.  In my case it happened just a couple of weeks ago at our local grocery store.  Before I begin the story you need to know that I am one of those slightly older people who has “old people’s skin.”  In case you don’t know “old people’s skin” happens as a person ages.  The result is skin that bruises and wounds easily.  Let me just say, “It ain’t fun.” It goes like this.

You are opening the storm door with one of those automatic closing things.  The wind catches the door, banging into your arm.  Congratulations…you are the proud owner of a new bruise.  You are carrying a pile of limbs to the rubbish pile and one shifts in your hands and against, or rather into, your arm.  You win again.  You are going up the stairs…yes, I said up the stairs, and your foot catches on the riser and you fall against the wall.  Double congratulations…you win a bruise and cut.  Sigh.

And it is always the hand you use the most.  In my case I am left-handed so my left arm continually looks like I play major league football or have wrestled with a full-grown lion.  Either way…its’ not pretty.  And mark my word, just about the time you get it healed up…bam…you start all over again. That, dear friends, is where the stupid watermelon comes along.

I don’t do grocery stores.  I definitely do food…I just don’t do grocery shopping.  Well, one evening I was feeling pretty jovial and decided to go to the grocery store with my wife Judy.  We enter the store and get one of those cute (on no…I said cute again) mini baskets and off we go.  We are heading back to the bakery so I am in a particularly good mood.  I can already taste the greasy, fried dough.  Then…it happens.  There is a sign that says, “Watermelons – $3.99.”  Judy loves watermelons.

We pause and begin to study the watermelons.  She thumps them.  She pats them. She caresses them.  After several minutes the winner is chosen.  “I want this one” she declares.  Her galant, strong prince, hoists the winning melon out of the bin of losers and prepares to put it in the buggy.  Because we have a mini-buggy, I decided to put it in the bottom rather than the top.  That is where things got ugly.

I bend over and prepare to slide the watermelon into the too small bottom portion of the buggy. Just at the time of releasing the melon and removing my hand—it slips. As it falls into the too small bottom portion it rolls on my hand and catches my finger between the basket and watermelon. “Ouch,” I said.  When I was able to maneuver my finger from between the basket and melon—I saw it.  Not a bruise…oh no…but a nice ¾ inch skin laceration.  It was bleeding. Badly. Profusely.  It was then the true nature of the melon escaped my lips, “Stupid watermelon.”  No wonder they were on sale for $3.99.

It seems at least they could have put a sign up that read, “Stupid Watermelons – $3.99.”

Well, I quickly became obsessed over the true nature of the evil watermelon.  “Hey Judy, do you have a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the stupid watermelon?” “Honey, do you want some cheese to go with the stupid watermelon?” On and on it went and the watermelon and I became mortal enemies.  And the coup-de-grace?  Not only was it stupid…it wasn’t even sweet.  Sigh.

But no, I had to find out the hard way.  About then Judy said something like, “Well, it really wasn’t the watermelon…it was the buggy.” I began to protest but I think she said something like, “And you know it happened because it slipped out of your hand.”  By that I assumed she meant the one that was cut and bleeding.  Somehow it didn’t make my hand feel any better and two weeks later I still have some healing to do.  But…she was right.

It wasn’t the watermelon, it wasn’t the buggy it wasn’t even me.  It was just one of those things that happen.  I just needed to blame something because my hand hurt and 746 people were going to ask, “What happened to your hand?”  Blaming it on a stupid watermelon just seemed easier.  The truth is, it is easier to blame than it is to own.  It has been that way since the beginning of time.  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve and God for the hot mess they were in after they chose to sin.  Eve, of course, blamed the serpent and the serpent, well, he just smiled. Whether it is broken skin or a broken heart; whether it is someone’s fault or not; whether you own part of the skirmish or all of it—why not take a moment and own it. Press the pause button, calm down and then just eat the watermelon.  That way, you will get the last laugh.  Then, tell God about it, all about it and take a rest in Him.  He’s got that and this.

Posted in life, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born

I Said, “Sing”

“My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

Bummer.  I knew I should have listened.  I have always liked music and I have always loved to sing.  From the time my mother forced my oldest sister to allow me to sing at her wedding…I’ve been hooked.  Not only do I like music I generally like almost all kinds of music.  To me music is the melody of life.  It often expresses emotions and feelings that otherwise might go unexpressed. So I sing…loud and all the time.

You know, some people says, “I saw you at the store the other day.”  Not me.  People will say, “I heard you at the store the other day.”  Regardless of where I am there is usually a song somewhere close by.  And the funny part is you never know what you will get.  It might be “Amazing Grace” or Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”  That’s really not an issue except for the fact I work at a church.  It can be kinda strange.

I also have a hard time getting the words right.  I know some of the words to hundreds of songs but unfortunately know all the words to very few.  People used to correct me when I would get the words wrong.  Most finally gave up.  Now they just smile. I should have listened a long time ago when someone would try and correct me.  Especially since that time in basic training.

Basic training in the Air Force is that time when they teach you the ways of being an airman.  That includes knowledge and action.  Clearly it involves learning to follow orders.  I was raised in the South so saying, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” came real easy for me.  I was even a pretty compliant person.  But one day, well, I just missed it.

For some reason I was in the barracks by myself and I was letting it go.  It was an old hymn, maybe “Amazing Grace.”  From somewhere a voice boomed, “Shut-up.” Well, I thought it was one of the guys jerking my chain so I kept right on singing at the top of my lungs.  From somewhere the booming voice boomed again, “I said shut-up.”  It was just about then that I vaguely remembered hearing that voice before.  “Oh, that’s right,” I said, “that’s the voice of my drill instructor, Sergeant Catchings.”  Oops.  Game, set, match.

So he comes from somewhere and is madder than a hornet.  “Taylor” he said, “didn’t I tell you to shut-up?” he boomed in his drill sergeant voice.  I knew there was no use trying to explain that I didn’t know it was him so I just muttered a weak, “Yes, sir.”  So he walks over to the mop closet, opens the door and invites me to step inside.  Gulp.  I step inside and as he shuts the door he said just one word, “Sing!”

So, with all its odors and in the dark, I start belting out “Amazing Grace.”  After a few verses, he opens the door and says, “Do you know, “Rock of Ages?”  “Yes, sir” I said.  Once again came the one word command, “Sing.” The door closes and I sing.  After a few verses, the door opens and he said, “Do you know…” and he named another hymn long forgotten now. “Yes sir” I said. You know what he said, “Sing.”  Well, after a few verses the door opens and he says, “Get out.”  I wasn’t sure if he meant out of the closet or out of the Air Force and I didn’t stick around to find out.  I got out.

Well, I learned something that day.  It is important that I learn to recognize and obey the voices around me…especially those that might be in charge.  I never missed the voice of Sergeant Catchings again.  When I heard that booming voice…I listened. No more mop closets. Listen to your sergeant.  Oh, and even more importantly, listen to God.

You see, one day Jesus was describing His followers to a bunch of religious bad guys.  He said, “My sheep (code for followers) know My voice. I know them and they follow Me.” That verse, in English, has 12 very important words.  First, he said, “My sheep know my voice.” Check.  We need to recognize Jesus’ voice.  Amid all the noise of the world we have got to hear Him.  Second, He said, “I know them.” Wait, what? He knows us. I like that.  It means that He has a relationship with me.  He is looking out for me.  It also means He knows my quirky habits like singing too loud in the middle of WalMart…and loves me anyway.  Last, “They follow me.” What He is saying is that followers follow. Plain and simple.  Follow Him and you might avoid the “mop closets” of life. Trust me…I’ve been there and done that.  It’s not the kind of place you want to visit or sing in. I’m sure Sergeant Catchings had my best interest in mind.  He was there to teach me discipline and he did. Looking back, I’m sure he thought it was all pretty humorous.  So do I…now.  But that day, well, I just wish I had listened a little closer.  Its’ important that you…. Wait, do you hear something?  What’s that?  Is it Jesus saying something?  Oh, He’s whispering.  “Rest in Me. I’ve got this.” “Yes, sir” I whisper.  I believe you do.