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

Makin’ Grits

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Jesus in John 10:10b

It was time for some grits.  Well, after two weeks on the road traveling and doing God stuff it was so good to be home.  Dorothy (the one from the Wizard of Oz) said it best…there is no place like home…and she was right.  Over the last two weeks we did different things and slept in different beds and ate a lot of different foods. In the coming days and weeks, I will be writing about some of our adventures. But after all of that…this morning…it was time for something familiar. It was time for grits.

When I woke up and had breakfast in this place called home, I wanted something that was normal…something that would remind me I was indeed home.  It shouldn’t surprise you that I turned to grits.  For me, if there is something that says home, it is grits.  Grits are more than a food.  Grits are part of my heritage.  Grits are wholesome.  Grits are…grits.  This morning’s grits started with a bowl of “cheater” grits cooked in the microwave.  Trust me…grits on the stove or grits in the microwave are still stinking good.  So, in the bowl went the grits, an amount of water that varies from day to day, a good shaking of salt and pepper, a small handful of bacon bits and finally, a wedge of Laughing Cow Light Swiss cheese.  Can someone say, “Hallelujah?”  Well, from the first bite till I scraped the bowl clean…it was heaven…it was good…it said, “Home.”

While I love grits, I also am honest enough to admit that just plain grits are well…plain.  But when you add the good stuff, well, all I can say is “Shoot that thing.”  The good stuff can make something plain…sing.  It is true with grits, and it is true with life.  You see, life can be just life but when you add the good stuff, life sings like a happy opera singer.  What makes life sing is different for each person but for me the list is short and sweet.  First, you add God to the mix and not just any god but Jehovah God…the One who made it all.  The trees, the flowers, the mountains, and the rivers are just a few of His works.  Look up and the stars and the planets all sing of His greatness. You know, Jesus once said that He had come to give us life and not only that but a life worth living…and I believe He did. Now don’t confuse God and religion.  God is always good and religion by itself is just like plain grits…tasteless.

Another thing that makes my life sing is family and friends.  You see, I don’t believe grits were made to be eaten plain.  Grits is the foundation just waiting for the good stuff.  We were never created to be loners on a desert island.  No, we were made for each other.  Again, each life is different, but each life should include others…the kind that enrich and fulfill us.  For some it is a big family and for others it might be a family of one.  It might be ten close friends or only one or two, but we all need others.  Why not invite someone into your world today?  I know for me that can sometimes be difficult, but it is worth the effort.

The third thing that we need to make our life sing is a trio of treats.  They are love, gratitude, and contentment.  Just like the cheese, bacon bits, and salt and pepper bring my bowl of grits to life, so do these three powerful life ingredients.  Love is as essential as the air that we breathe and gratitude, being thankful for all we have instead of grumpy about what we don’t, is too. Oh, and when we are grateful…we are usually content.  Throw all of this together and you have a life that sings…a life that is worth getting up to everyday.

You see, to have a full life, a life that is as sweet as the sweetest love song, doesn’t require titles, dollars, and stuff.  No…a life that sings is so much more than that.  All we must do is be willing to start.  This morning’s breakfast of grits wasn’t hard…I mean that is one thing that even I can prepare.  But it did require a start…it did require a beginning.  So, today, let’s take that first step.  Let’s pour in the bowl of our life a big dose of faith, love, gratitude, and contentment and then let’s sit down to the table of life and feast. Don’t know where or how to start? Why not ask God, the one many call, “Father?”  You will find Him there ready and willing to help. You can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful

Settled

Hi Grits Family! My wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Well, the issue is finally settled. It is really a difficult thing to be the baby of the family especially when it is obvious that after seven previous tries mom and dad finally got it right.  Yup…that was me.  Number eight in a litter of eight.  Sometimes, because I was the baby of eight, my other brothers and sisters got a little jealous.

One of the stories that I was raised with was the fact that I really wasn’t a natural born part of the family.  In fact, they told me that mama and daddy had found me in a ditch in the poor part of town and felt sorry for me and brought me home.  Now I understand how that story got started.  I mean I was so much cuter and smarter than my brothers and sisters it seemed pretty apparent that I was an outsider. Yup, they would rag on me big time, but it didn’t bother me. I knew I was special.

I grew up and the story about me being “found” kind of faded away. I knew it was all a joke, but every once in a while, it gives me pause.  Hmmm, what if, I wonder, could it be?  Naw…I was pretty sure; it was not true.  As time passed and technology grew, someone started a company that would allow you to check your DNA.  The results would tell you where you were from and where your ancestors lived.  One of my older brothers decided to spend the money and have his checked. The results were lack luster.

I always envisioned being related to William Wallace or some other great hero.  But when his results came in it turned out that we were 83% plain ole Englishmen.  Yup…right there in Northern Europe.  I guess my ancestors got mad at the king or queen and took a ship to America.  His results did show that we were 17% Scott Irish which meant there was about a one in five chance that I had an Irish brogue hidden somewhere in me. However, it wasn’t enough for me to go buy a kilt!

But then I thought, “Well, those are his results but are they, my results?”  I mean if the “we found you in a ditch story” was true then his story couldn’t be mine.  So, guess what?  For Father’s Day, Judy spent the money, and I was able to spit in a tube and send my DNA off in the mail.  It took several weeks but guess what?  Yup, you guessed it.  My results were exactly-the same as my brothers.  What that really means is that we had the same father and mother, and I was the best looking and smartest because mom and dad finally got it right.  Smile.

I’m just pulling your leg.  I knew I was part of the family, there is a whole lot of family resemblance in me.  I also knew that old story was just a joke, but I always enjoyed playing along.  It made me feel kinda…special.  As you have heard before…my brothers and sisters called me “precious”—mainly because I was.  Smile.  But I want you to know that you are special too.  We all are.  We are all wonderful creations of God.  Like someone said, “God doesn’t make junk.”

I was born into the Taylor clan by an act of God’s grace.  Period.  I could have been born anywhere or at any time, but by His grace I was born to Alston and Leslie back in 1954. That wasn’t the only time I experienced His grace.  I was born another time too, back on October 26, 1976.  That was the day I was born again and adopted into the family of God.  You see, each person who trusts Christ is in the family by a new birth (that’s where we get our spiritual DNA) but also by the power of adoption (that’s where we get all the rights and privileges of a full-grown son.). From the moment I believed in Jesus, I had all the rights of a person who has known Jesus for decades.  Amazing.

So, I’m a Taylor down to my core…my DNA proves it.  But I am also a “tailor-made” (I couldn’t resist) child of God.  Born again by His grace and adopted into the family as His son.  There is no higher privilege than that.  And it is an open invitation.  God invites each and every person into the family if they are willing to believe and trust in His Son.  It is all a matter of faith and His grace.  His Book says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

I know I use that verse often, but it just never grows old.  I am a child of God, and He is my Dearest Daddy. Not because of who I am, but because of His love for me and His amazing grace.  How about that?

If you should ever wonder who you really belong to, can I make a suggestion?  Why not settle the issue and become a child of His?  You will never wander or wonder again.  He’s just waiting for you to come to Him and rest.  He wants you to know He’s got this, for now and for all eternity.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Blueberry Crumble

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

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 Momma 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 Momma’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 crazy politics, 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 all 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.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Bruiser

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

I saw it coming.  I never saw it coming.  Both are true, and the truth is, it didn’t matter. So, about a month ago now, two-thirds of the family (that would be two of my three daughters and their families) were able to jail break and go to Florida for a week.  The middle daughter had been going to the Palm Coast of Florida for the last several years and she suggested we give it a try. I was a reluctant participant.

You see, I was raised on the Northeast coast of Florida.  My growing up years consisted of regular trips to the beach.  Many years later I discovered the Gulf coast with its sugary white sands and clear blue-green waters, and I was sold.  Because of this, I wasn’t overly excited when the plans for the East coast were drafted.  However, having done life being the only male in the house (there was my wife, three daughters, a girl dog, a girl cat or two and six female tropical fish.  Even the mice in the barn were girls.) I realized that resistance was futile.  So off to the East coast we went.

I was pleasantly surprised.  We were about an hour or so South of Jacksonville (where I was raised) in a nice condominium complex. We shared the place with our middle daughter and family, and it was just perfect.  It overlooked the golf course with a great view of the ocean.  The grounds were well maintained, and it had two very nice pools—one family and one for the adults who liked things a little quieter.  The normal vacation crowd was much smaller and that was good news given the COVID thing. The only problem was “they” were there.

“They” were waves.  Pretty big waves.  You see on the Gulf side you usually have little friendly waves.  The waves gently bump into you and seem to say, “Hi, we are glad you are here.”  The waves in the Atlantic are from the Southside of Chicago.  They are gangster waves. When we went to the beach they were waiting.  This is the part I remember from my growing up and from one or two vacations from earlier years.  You can hear them before you see them.  They are inviting you into the water—so they can bully you.

Anyway, we get to the beach, and you know they didn’t look too intimidating.  I mean they weren’t gentle “hey, glad you are here waves” but they weren’t “terminator” waves either.  We set our stuff down on the beach and off we went into the water.  First, I tested the waves with a knee-deep stand.  Not bad.  Then I went a little deeper.  Still not too bad but I could begin to feel them.  They wanted me.  They had my number.

I was out in waist deep water and realized the power of perception.  Those waves that didn’t seem so big from shore were suddenly larger—much larger.  I turned to talk to Judy who was close by and looked back just in time to see a large wave coming.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my footing and survived the onslaught.  I smiled.  My sunglasses were still on my face and my hat was still on my head.  I was an overcomer.  Who’s the man now?! That’s when “Bruiser” came.

“Bruiser” was epic, “Bruiser” had one goal in mind—take me down.  I saw him coming but it was too late.  “Bruiser” was well over my head and broke right on top of me.  One minute I was standing and the next minute I was in a washing machine of ocean water…in the spin cycle.  When I came to surface, of which I was very grateful, “Bruiser” had moved on.  My swim shirt was over my head, my hat was gone, and my pride and body were a little bruised.  He had won. I had taken on the big boy and come up short.  Probably worse of all my Seattle hat, the one I had worn for several years was lost to the jaws of “Bruiser.”   It never had a chance.  May he rest in peace.

Well, one time in the spin cycle was enough for me that day. And somewhat gratefully I was glad to learn that others in the family had suffered similar fates. Even the son-in-laws got bowled over a time or two. Hats and sunglasses were lost but what was found was the joy of being with family.  We had a good time.

I did learn, or perhaps more accurately, relearn a lesson about the waves of the Atlantic.  They can be powerful.  Usually there is a flag system that warns of particularly rough waves.  Our beach didn’t have that, but I later heard on the news there had been some big waves.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.  Sometimes they manage to sneak in but even when you see them coming, they can take you down.

Life is the same way.  A day at life’s beach can quickly turn into a spin cycle of ocean water.  We can get bowled over by circumstances, uncertainties, tragedies, and pandemics. Even when we see them coming, they can be overwhelming.  After my encounter with “Bruiser” that day, I decided it was time to visit the pool—eventually all of us did.  The Bible says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Translated another way that means there is a time to swim in the ocean and there is a time to head to the pool. Wisdom is knowing when to do what. Wisdom is also knowing that no matter what life throws at you, we can rest in the One who makes the waves because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

My Clock is a Liar

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

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.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

It Was an Accident

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

I am sure the doctor just rolled his eyes.  When I was eleven or twelve, you know about sixth grade, my Daddy and Momma got me one of the coolest Christmas presents ever.  Most of you have seen the movie “A Christmas Story” about a kid who wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Well, this story isn’t like that, but it’s about something even better than a Red Ryder BB gun.  That year, wait for it, they got me a Daisy double-barrel BB gun.  It was designed after a real double-barrel shotgun.  It had two barrels (you probably figured that out), two triggers, and even broke in the middle to cock it. It was amazing.

I can remember going outside to shoot that gun…there was not another one like it in the whole neighborhood.  I wish I could tell you how well I took care of it…especially since, if you can find one now, they would sell for well over a thousand dollars.  But honestly, it was well used, and under cared for, and one day one of the barrels stopped working.  Well, I always enjoyed fixing things, so I just started taking things apart to work on it.  I figured out that the left barrel wasn’t working.  So, I took the “BB thingy” inside the barrel out, cleaned it really good, oiled it, and then stuck it back in.

After I put everything back together, I cocked the gun and pulled the trigger, but as far as I could tell it still wasn’t working.  I decided that I would put my finger over the bad barrel to see if I could feel any air coming out.  Now, I know that sounds like a really, bad idea, and it was.  I know it was not smart or safe.  I know it was just pure old dumb.  But, regardless, I did it.  I sure wish I hadn’t.

Well, things wouldn’t have been so bad because as it turns out the barrel wasn’t working.  The problem was that I had my finger over the wrong barrel and pulled the wrong trigger and as I squeezed that trigger, the gun fired, and a BB went right into my finger…clear to the bone.  Oh, and yes, that was a dumb idea, and yes, it did hurt…boy, did it hurt.

I put the gun down and ran into the house holding my throbbing and bleeding third finger on my right hand.  Momma didn’t have time to give me a lecture or even holler at me.  We headed straight to the emergency room.  After checking in we saw the doctor who when he heard the story gave me that, “what a really a dumb idea” look. After numbing things up, he proceeded to dig around with a medical tweezer until he found the BB, got ahold of it and pulled it out.  Shot or no shot—it hurt.  I got a nice bandage and the opportunity to make a story up on what happened.  I wasn’t about to tell the truth…that was way too embarrassing.

If you look on my right hand and at my ring finger you can still see to this day a nice little dimple where the BB went into my finger.  It is there to remind me not to stick my finger over the barrel of a BB gun…or any gun for that matter.  It is there to remind me that there are consequences when we choose dumb over smart, or wrong over right.  It reminds me of that part of the Bible that says the rules of God are always right…whatever you plant, you harvest.  Do dumb and you get dumb consequences…every time.

I hope this Grits will help me and you both to think before we act…you know, to think things through.  Fortunately, God is more than ready to help us make the right decisions if we are willing to ask.  Uh, I didn’t ask that day and when we just don’t get around to doing that…well, He is still there to help us deal with the consequences too.  I’m glad He’s not like the doctor, rolling His eyes at my mistakes.  No, He is too loving to do that.  In fact, if you listen, you will hear Him say, “Don’t worry, dumb or not, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

I Hated Him (part 2)

But when [Peter] saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him.” Matthew 14:29-31

His name was Richard Jackson…and I hated him.  Of course, if you read the story from July 13, you already knew that.  He was a bully and for some reason he chose me to push around.  It was the eighth grade and Richard Jackson was bigger than every other eighth grader.  He was probably bigger than half of the Marine Corp.  Anyway, I was his target.

He and his lackey Mark Williams announced one day that they would be riding my bus to my stop and would then proceed to “beat me up.”  It was a long day waiting to get beat up, and they did board the bus, they did get off at my stop and sure enough, egged on by Richard Jackson, Mark Williams started the fight.  He popped me in the mouth and knocked me down.  I did my best to fight back but it was clear my best was not going to get the job done that day.  I wish I could tell you how I taught him a lesson but that would be fiction.  He was on top; I was on the bottom, and I was losing.

This is the part of the story that is very hard for me to write because every guy that ever reads this is going to write me off as a loser.  All I can say is before you do…you weren’t there.  Well, here goes.  My older sister was on the bus that day and while she was smaller than Richard Jackson, she was bigger than me and bigger than Mark Williams. So, she, well, she rescued me.  She pulled Mark Williams off me and proceeded to tell him to “leave my brother alone.”

Well, that broke the fight up and we started the long walk to our house which was about a third of a mile away.  Behind us, Richard Jackson and his lackey chided us and threatened us.  It was the longest third of a mile I ever walked and with every slicing word and insult from Richard Jackson, I felt smaller and smaller.  When we arrived at our driveway, my Momma just happened to be standing in the yard and when she heard and saw what was going on she made sure Richard Jackson and his lackey understood that they had better leave her son alone.

Now this is hard.  First, I knew I needed their help but to be rescued by, first my sister, and then my Momma destroyed any self-dignity I had…which honestly wasn’t much. But at the same time without them, well, it would have been even uglier.  You see, the truth is sometimes we just need help.  Actually, the truth is we need help almost every day. We are not built to stand or fight alone.  That is true for life and its ugly circumstances, and it is true when we fight the spiritual battles in life.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you must admit there is plenty of evil in this world and at the end of the day that will point you to a very real devil. And just like Richard Jackson, he wants more than anything to destroy you or at least make you feel like you’ve been destroyed.  Like it or not…we all need a rescue and the good news there is a rescuer, and His name is Jesus.  God took on Satan a long time ago and it was a no contest.  Read the Bible and you will see in the end—God wins and if we choose to follow Him—we win too.

In this world, with all its craziness, I know it seems that evil is going to win.  I bet that day when Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross and died…Satan assumed the war was over and He had bested God.  Well, three days later proved a different reality.  No, he didn’t win the war and he didn’t win the battle.  He played right into God’s hands.  So, while I was embarrassed that day, I was also grateful for the rescue. You may think you don’t need rescuing; you don’t need God but trust me…without Him…well, hard just got harder.

Why not ask Him to rescue you today? When Peter was about to drown one day, he called out…and Jesus was there. Why not finally admit this thing called life and eternity is a battle we can’t win on our own? Why not give God a shot at being the rescuer you need?  If you do, if you will, you will never have to fight the bullies of life alone again.  You will always have…not a sister…not a Momma…but a Mighty Warrior by your side.  And, when the bullies of life walk up, you can be assured that He will whisper, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

What Does the Lord Require of You?

He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

It was an unexpected blessing. A while back my friend Jeremy gave me a call and asked if I wanted to go to Marion (a town about 25 miles from where we live) with him.  He needed some stuff from Sam’s, so it just sounded like a good thing to do.  And do you know what? It was.  He swung by the house and off we went.  As we traveled, we talked.  We have one of those “what’s said in the truck, stays in the truck” things so it is good to have a place where you can let your hair down (uh, if you’ve ever seen my hairline, you know that is metaphorically speaking) and just be guys.

As we neared Marion, he took a turn down Main Street, which was a little odd for going to Sam’s, and before I knew it, we were at Cracker Barrel.  That caught me off guard since I thought we were just doing the Sam’s thing. It turns out my bad ear failed to hear the part about, “I’ll buy your breakfast.”  So, hey, the trip went from good to really good! Let’s see…time away with a brother and free breakfast…yup…that works.  We were quickly seated in Cracker Barrel but that is when the quickly ended and it was also when I realized I might be having a couple of “Cracker Barrel moments.”

We waited awhile before a server came by.  He was kind and gracious and so were we.  He took our order, and Jeremy and I began to talk.  We talked about this, and we talked about that and then, because there was time, we talked about that again.  Finally, after oh, three days, our food came.  It really wasn’t too big of a deal because I was spending time with a friend, and I was studying for a sermon on patience and needed some practice.  But I did say to Jeremy, pointing at the food, “I was just about to have to work on my patience.”  He smiled and said, “Hey, you got some place to go?” Ah…Cracker Barrel moment number one. Enjoy the moment.  Truth was there was nothing I was going to do that was more important than just visiting with a friend.  Someone once said that one of the most spiritual things we can do is take a nap.  Number two on that list might be visiting with a Christian brother. Check.

Cracker Barrel moment number two happened a few minutes later.  After we were seated for a few minutes, an older couple came in and sat down nearby.  Their server was there immediately.  I think I frowned. Their food came (before ours…I might have frowned) and then shortly after, our own breakfast feast arrived.  Judy was not around so I ordered the works.  Then it happened.  A young man walked in and was seated close to the older couple.  I watched as the young man went over to the older man, excused himself for interrupting, said something.  They shook hands and the young man returned to his table.

The older couple left first and then Jeremy and I stood to leave too.  I stopped at the table of the young man and asked, “I saw you go over and talk to that older man.  What was that about?”  I thought I already knew.  The young man said, “He was a veteran I was thanking him for his service.”  Yup…I was right.  The older gentleman had a ball cap on, and it identified him as a veteran. I said, “Well, thank you for thanking him for his service.  That was very kind.”  I don’t know who his Momma was, but she sure did a good job raising him.

Two Cracker Barrel moments—two exact opposite lessons yet both valuable.  Live for the moment…whatever is next can probably wait and always, and I mean always, take the opportunity to do the right thing…like thanking a veteran.  I left Cracker Barrel a lot fuller that day…pun intended. We enjoyed a good meal, some great fellowship, and had a blessing thrown in for dessert.

Tucked away in one of those books of the Bible that we rarely read is a verse that says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” I think my visit to Cracker Barrel hit on a couple of those.  None of us know which day will be our last day but it is good to know the One who does. Until that time, we need our Cracker Barrel moments to remind us we are still learning and that “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

I Hated Him

And be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving one another, just as God also forgave you in Christ.” Ephesians 4:32

His name was Richard Jackson and I hated him. I know, I know…hate is a strong word, and you aren’t supposed to hate someone or anyone.  But lying is wrong too and the truth is…I hated him.  Besides all that I was in the eighth grade, so it was a long time ago and it was also before I decided to follow Jesus. I’ve wanted to write this story before, but I’ve always put it off…until today.

Anyone who knows anything can tell you that junior high, or middle school as they call it now, can be difficult…and mine was.  I never was in the cool crowd at school…I just didn’t make the cut. And add to that I was a little too short and a little too pudgy and I guess that just made me a target. Richard Jackson wasn’t in the cool group either he was in that nether land where people go who aren’t really nerdy but aren’t cool either.  In another world, Richard Jackson would be a target like me…but he wasn’t.

Richard Jackson wasn’t a target because he was the one who targeted others.  By a twist of fate, he was big, real big.  I’m not sure if he was big because of his DNA or the fact that he probably spent too many years in the eighth grade.  Regardless, he was big and for whatever reason, when he looked for someone to push around and bully, he found me.  We didn’t share classes, we didn’t live in the same neighborhood, and we sure didn’t go to the same church.  Come to think about it, I’m sure Richard Jackson didn’t go to church.

Anyway, Richard Jackson, for most of my eighth-grade year made it his business to make me miserable. He would push and shove and threaten me almost daily.  To make matters worse, Richard Jackson had a lackey who would hang around him.  If Richard Jackson was big, Mark Williams wasn’t. He was skinny, almost scrawny, but all that didn’t matter because he belonged to Richard Jackson.  Well, Richard Jackson decided that Mark Williams should beat me up and one day he said just that. He promised to ride my bus and get off at my stop and pummel me.  That was a long day as I waited all day to get beat up.

Well, I got on the bus, they got on the bus and when it came to my bus stop…we all got off.  Richard Jackson instantly started in on me and at the same time encouraging his lackey to hit me.  Well, he did, square on the mouth and then we took to the ground and wrestled around a bit before it was all over.  Well, every day for months I would take my tongue and feel the large knot on my lip.  Every day for months I relived those few moments trying to make the outcome different.  It never was. To this day, I hate that day.

I think, though I am not sure, that soon after this Richard Jackson lightened up some.  In fact, by the time high school rolled around he was almost civil.  His lackey Mark Williams went somewhere…maybe parole school for all I know.  All I know is for a long time I allowed that day to define me.  For a long time, I allowed the fear of another bully showing up to cause me to live in fear.  And then finally, slowly, the fear disappeared but the scar remained.

As I write this, I still can feel the emotional pain that Richard Jackson and Mark Williams inflicted on me.  And, honestly, it wouldn’t be too hard for me to hate them all over again but then I realize that wouldn’t accomplish anything.  I’ve given them enough free rent in my brain already.  Besides all that since those days I had another important day—I met a Man who loved me enough to die for me.  I met a man who forgave me of everything I had ever done wrong.  I met a man who said since I have forgiven you don’t you think you should forgive him…forgive them.  And I realized He was right.  If I didn’t, I was no better than they were.

Is there a Richard Jackson or a Mark Williams in your past…for present?  Is there a scar on your heart the size of Texas because someone decided to put it there?  Maybe just maybe it is time to let it go.  Maybe it is time to forgive.  As I wrote this, I was amazed at the emotion that still lingers in my heart and in my memories and I realized this forgiveness thing isn’t as easy as it seems.  But that’s ok because the One who asked me to forgive stands ready to help me to forgive.  He stands there ready to help, whispering, “It’s ok, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Daily Reminders

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

It was the great adventure.  I don’t know what your experiences with going to grandmother’s house were like…but mine, well, it was a great adventure.  Granddaddy and Grandmother lived in Gainesville, Florida and we lived on the west side of Jacksonville.  And, more than occasionally, we would load up in our car and drive down to Grandmother’s house.  It’s funny…it was never Granddaddy’s house…it always seemed to belong to her.

When we got there, we have our time of greeting and then, usually, there would be work to be done…at least for Daddy and me and our domain was the yard.  Grandmother had some beautiful flowers and my Daddy loved flowers too. We would walk around the yard admiring the handiwork of our Creator and planning what needed to be done.  And, before long, we would get to work.  There was weeding, mowing, picking up debris left over from the last Florida “frog strangler rain” and a host of other chores.  Fortunately, it wasn’t an all-day deal because there were adventures waiting.

Grandmother’s house was located on a main street but in a quiet neighborhood.  From the large front porch, with large white rockers, you could sit and watch the traffic go by.  If you went out the back door, there was the quiet world of the garden.  Beside the house was one of those narrow side streets that you only travelled if you knew it was there.  We went down that road and the blocks behind the house to collect coke bottles for the two-cent deposit.  Two cents meant two pieces of penny candy…what a bargain. Besides the bottles, there was another treasure trove that we visited every time we visited Grandmother.

I remember we would go into the backyard and there was trail of sorts going through some woods.  At the other end of the trail, on the next block, sat a small warehouse.  Today I suppose you would call it a large storage shed.  To my sisters and me it was heaven.  A man had a Jewel Tea franchise and that was where he stored his merchandise.  And right next to the building was a pile…a glorious pile of…stuff.  It was like having our own treasure chest except there wasn’t a chest.  It was all there, free, for the taking.

What was there?  Well, there were all kinds of items…things for the house or for personal care.  Honestly, you never knew what you were going to find…it was the great adventure.  It was not uncommon for there to be candy and snacks.  Now keep in mind this was in the sixties and everything was still wrapped up tight.  We would have a ball pilfering through the pile.  Sometimes of course there wouldn’t be anything but the anticipation of going to the Jewel Tea warehouse was so exciting.  The only thing better than finding bottles and collecting our two cents each, was finding the mother lode at the warehouse.

Perhaps you can’t imagine rummaging through a pile of boxes left outside.  Perhaps you can’t imagine opening some candy someone had discarded but somehow, someway, it just seemed ok and normal back then.  It really was the great adventure. We didn’t have a lot and because of that we didn’t get a lot so when you could find bottles and get two cents or when you could get something for free…well, it was pretty good day.

Somehow, I missed those days…days of simplicity…days of being satisfied with little and needing less.  These days we are surrounded by so much and yet today, enough never seems to be quite enough.  What used to fill our cups seems now to be but a drop in the bucket.  I think we have lost our way…detoured down a road of discontentment where sunrises are ignored, and a beautiful flower missed as we rush by.  Love notes from our Dearest Daddy, strategically placed along our paths, go unread.  We need to slow down, we need to smell the roses, we need to read the notes.

Today, this day, why don’t we make a conscious decision to find something simple and marvel in it again and why don’t we start with a simple fact.  And what fact is that?  It is that God so loved this broken, crazy world we call home, so much that He allowed, He sent, His Son into it and made a promise. The promise is anyone who believes in Him can have eternal life.  Think about that.  Loved by God with heaven thrown in…now that’s a good day.  And if you need a booster shot of “feel good,” just remember this.  No matter what comes your way today…well, He’s got it.  Bro. Dewayne