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

Settled

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 give 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 only had a 17% chance of being from Ireland or Scotland. That means there was about a one in five chance that I had an Irish brogue hidden somewhere in me and that was not enough for me to go and buy a kilt! A whopping 83% was plain ole English.  Yup…right there in Northern Europe.  I guess my ancestors got mad at the king or queen and took a ship to America.

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 brother’s.  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 really 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 anytime, 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.

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

Salty Watermelon and Sweet Grits

Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” Romans 12:4-5

It just doesn’t make any sense.  I am from the South and we know how to do food.  There are two foods that are mainstays.  They are grits and watermelon.  From my perspective you don’t mess with Texas and you don’t mess with grits and you don’t mess with watermelon.  Yet, there it is as plain as day.  And, for goodness sake, it is in my family.

My wife Judy, has long been a fan of watermelon.  I mean she isn’t friends with watermelon, she loves it.  And just like me, she loves a sweet watermelon.  When we were growing up, watermelons were just about the size of a small blimp, weighing up to 30 and 40 pounds.  Most of them were as sweet as sugar water.  There was not a question if a melon was going to be sweet, it was just a matter of how sweet it was going to be!  Those were the days.

However, somewhere along the way watermelons changed.  Most of them are now the size of basketballs and weigh-in at a feather weight of 12-15 pounds.  And it seems the only way to get a sweet watermelon is to inject it with sugar water.  Perhaps that might be the reason Judy has gotten confused about how to make a melon taste sweeter.  Someone has cast an evil spell upon her.  For many years now, she has been convinced that putting salt—that’s right salt—on watermelon somehow makes it sweeter.  What?  Listen, I’ve tried this, and the only thing salt does to watermelon is make it salty.

I’ve tried to remove this evil spell but to no avail.  And she even uses it against me.  She will sometimes cut up a watermelon and then sprinkle…or dump…salt all over it.  She knows then that the melon is all hers.  It is a devious plan indeed.  But that is what happens when you mess with melons.

Now the second problem is as bad.  Everyone knows that grits are not cream of wheat and not oatmeal …so you do not…and I repeat DO NOT…put sugar on grits.  It is a travesty of justice and some would say very close to a sin.  If God had wanted grits to be sweet, He would have made them that way.  I have a very good friend who has been mesmerized with a spell and he is convinced that sugar goes on grits.  It is a sad tale indeed.  And the crazy part is, he is wonderful cook.  I think it just goes to show that even the best cooks can be deceived.

You might ask, “Well, what goes on grits?”  That would be salt, pepper, and butter and lots of all three.  A good bowl of grits should slide down your throat like shoes on melting ice, raise your blood pressure by 10 points, and have a nice pepper burn.  But they should not be sweet…ever…never.  Now there are other acceptable variations such as cheese (oh, yes) bacon bits (I can taste it now!) and of course shrimp.  If you have never had cheese grits or shrimp and grits, you need to repent right away and go try it.  You won’t regret it. It is as fine as frog hair…and that is pretty fine.

Now I have learned (actually, I am still learning) that someone can believe that you need to put salt on watermelon and sugar on grits and still be your friend.  That becomes really important if you happen to be married to them.  You see, we need to learn that we don’t need to agree on everything.  If we would practice that, the world would be a better place for sure.  Now, not that I have ever had this problem, but sometimes people tend to get a little stubborn.  We tend to think that there is only one way and that is our way.  You know, kinda like when you think you don’t put salt on watermelon or, gulp, sugar on grits.  Oops, I think I just shot myself in the foot.  I knew if I wrote long enough it would happen.

The Book tell us, “Now as we have many parts in one body, and all the parts do not have the same function, in the same way we who are many are one body in Christ and individually members of one another.” In other words, it is ok if Judy likes salt on her watermelon, as long as she keeps the salt on her side of the plate.  And my friend who likes sugar on his grits may need to go to rehab, but he can still be my friend.  Let’s not make mountains out of molehills, especially in these difficult days.

I’m probably gonna have to try this salt and sugar thing at least one more time.  If nothing else it will show that I am trying to understand. That’s what Jesus would want me to do and that’s what He does for me.  When I come up with some strange combinations in life, well, He just smiles and tries to show me the right way.  He keeps me from doing something too crazy…like eating chili and eggs.  It’s good to know that if I do, He’s got that too.

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

Food Fix

Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

What do you mean food doesn’t fix everything?  Well, I don’t know if it is because I am from the South or because I am a Baptist but I just know food makes everything better.  There is nothing like a healthy (uh, perhaps unhealthy) dose of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, well seasoned {hog jowl or some other appropriate grease source} green beans, and a large portion of bread) to make everything better. And, of course, don’t forget dessert.

The other evening I came home from a rather difficult meeting.  I walked in the door and my wife Judy, who can read me like a book, instantly said, “do you need to self-medicate?”  I love her…she knows.  Off to the Dairy Barn we went and in just a few minutes I was feeling better thanks to a salted-caramel concrete.  Yup, the saying used to be “take two aspirins and call me in the morning.”  Now it is, “eat two chocolate cookies with a glass of cold milk and call me in the morning.”  Oh the joy.

We have this rose bush in our incredibly beautiful yard—which by the way is also due to Judy and her green thumb.  This rose bush is on an arbor by our back door which used to be a great spot.  It bloomed and as you walked through the arbor you were immersed in their sweet, lush smell.  It was good.  But over time the bush has grown not as healthy and doesn’t bloom nearly as much.

Judy and I were sitting in the yard yesterday morning and she made the comment that the rose bush had a single bloom.  So I casually mentioned that maybe she should feed it.  Remember, that fixes everything.  A good shot of rose bush food and bam here come the blooms.  But she told me I was wrong.  The problem wasn’t that the rose bush was starving for food—it was starving for light.  Here’s what has happened.

Just to the east of the rose bush where the morning sun comes in, two trees have grown—a dogwood and a redbud.  Both are great trees and they seem to be real happy.  But in the process of growing they have shut off a lot of the morning sunshine from the rose bush and it is suffering.  Judy said that the rose bush can survive the way it is but without enough sunlight it won’t and can’t bloom.  What we end up with is a rose bush that is just getting by and that will never really be what it was intended to be—a source of beauty with the sweet aroma of a new day.

So, somewhere in the future there is a good chance that the rose bush will probably have to be moved to a place where it can thrive and that means more sun.  It will be a dramatic change and it might even be difficult but unless we do something the rose will never be and do what it was meant to be and do.  Hmmmm.

I wonder if that is the problem with me—with you.  I wonder if we are growing in a place where the soil might be right but there just isn’t enough light.  I wonder if we need more Sonshine.  You see, we might believe that if our lives just had more stuff, more toys, more of this or more of that, we would be happy.  But the truth of the matter—we just need more of Jesus.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.” Wow.  First, He affirms He is the light we are looking for.  It might seem easier, even logical to just put a light bulb out by the rose bush, but that light would be insufficient and could never replace the light of the sun.  And trust me, the light we need in our lives can never come from religion, denomination or some other “self medication.”  We need the true light that can only come from Him.

But He says something else.  He declares that if we walk with Him two things will happen.  We won’t have to just survive in the darkness, or starve for light and in fact we will have the light that brings life.  Bam…just what we need…just what the doctor ordered.  And if that isn’t enough, since we walk with Him there will never be the need for a transplant because we walk with the Light—we move with the Light.  Because of that, no circumstances will ever be able to hurt us.

Well, it’s just a matter of time but we will have to move our friend to a sunnier place in our yard.  And I will feel sorry for the bush as we dig him up and prune him back but it will be for his good.  After the initial pain he will bloom again and that will make it worth while.  So, what do you need to do in your life to once again walk with the Son?  What things need to be pruned back or what needs to be given up so you will be free to walk with Him again?  Yup, it might be painful but just imagine your life as you are blooming once again.  Imagine the fragrant smell of life with Him.  Make that decision today.  Go ahead and rest in Him.  He’s got this.

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

Call Me “Precious”

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

I remember it like it was yesterday…or a couple of weeks ago anyway.  I am the youngest of eight children.  Some call me the baby of the family…I call it the best. My brothers and sisters nicknamed me “precious”.  I used to think it was because they were jealous, but I later learned they were just right.  And, because I was so precious, well, I often was the target of pranks and other acts of terrorism.

The two sisters right above me and myself were called the three little ones.  That was because everybody else was several years older and therefore bigger.  My two youngest sisters were the main terrorists.  They loved to hold me down and tickle me mercilessly and then pull my ears till they were blood red. It’s because of them one of my ears sticks out further than the other. They were two tough cookies.

One time they pushed me out the door in my underwear and wouldn’t let me back in.  I banged and banged on the door ,all to no avail.  They, of course, will deny all of this but trust me, at the Judgement Seat all will be revealed and they will surely be grateful for grace.

I have always had an affection for sweet things and they even used that against me.  One day one of them came up and said, “Dewayne, do you want some candy?”  Well, my response was, “Well sure.”  It was a small box and in my excitement I didn’t take time to read the label.  Honestly, since I was only about eight, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.  So, I opened the box and found that it was filled with chocolates.  There were only three or four pieces in the box and before long…they were gone.

I did notice that they tasted a little different, but they were sweet, and they were brown so hey, that was close enough for me.  I should have been suspicious that the terrorists were being so nice but I always was a trusting soul.  Well, several hours passed and before long time wasn’t the only thing that passed.  You see, my loving sisters had fed me a whole box of Ex-Lax.  They would deny it, you probably can’t believe it, but trust me, I was there.  Oh, boy was I there.

Well, I learned a lot of lessons growing up and this is one of them.  You see, things are often not what they seem to be. I thought I was a getting a box of chocolates and instead I got a box of trouble.  It looked like chocolate, it even tasted like chocolate, but it wasn’t even close.  Did you know that the Bible warns us how the devil can disguise himself?  It says that he can disguise himself as an angel of light when in fact he is the angel of darkness.  Remember that…things are not always as they seem.

I also learned that not everyone who comes bearing gifts can be trusted.  I should have known better when they offered me that box, but my desire for chocolate overruled my common sense.  That is what how Adam and Eve got in trouble in the garden. The story is found in Genesis and it says, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” And just like that…I found myself eating Ex-Lax.

It’s a tricky world out there…terrorists are lurking everywhere and sometimes they might be related, so be careful.  Be sure and use your good common sense if someone offers you a little box filled with chocolates.  You might be getting more than you bargained for.  Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have understood the label even if I had read it. But do you know what?  My mama would have.  In fact, if I had gone to mama this story would have been totally different.  But, well, I didn’t. As we journey through this upside down world, don’t forget to go to your Dearest Daddy with your questions and mysteries.  He is always there, and He is always watching out for you.  You can trust Him. His box of chocolate is always the real deal.  So have a seat, open the box and enjoy.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

Change…or Not?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

It was like I had lost a good friend. When this pandemic thing came up it messed with my life.  Needless to say…it is still messing.  It’s getting better but its not even close to normal. You see, one of the things that Judy and I enjoy doing together is dining out at a restaurant. We have several favorites that we go to pretty regularly.  We have our favorite in the burg, favorites in Marion, favorites in Paducah and even a couple in  Evansville.  Then we have favorite meals at each place.  At one we have a steak, at another grilled shrimp, at another a hamburger–and that is a seafood place…go figure.

But do you know what happens occasionally?  We decide to go “rogue.”  We decide to go to a new place or try something new at a familiar place. That is how we discovered the  “Pork  Belly, Pimento Cheese, Fried Green Tomato wonder of wonders”.  It still makes me drool. Regardless, the new adventure is always refreshing and usually quite good.  Every once in a while it flops—every once in a while we leave saying, “well, that didn’t work.”

A couple of years ago we were in Paducah and on a whim tried a Chinese place.  Everything said, “don’t” but we did.  Weeds in the parking lot, trash in the parking lot and a front door that looked like a herd of kids with dirty hands had just passed through all said, “get back in the car.”  Well, we didn’t and boy was it a bad experience.  But even so here’s what we have discovered—the sense of change—the sense of adventure is worth the risk of the occasional failure. Change can be challenging but it is also refreshing.

Someone once said that a rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.  By and large, I am a creature of habit.  I have the same thing for breakfast almost every day.  I drive the same way to work every day. But even if I like sameness, I also like change.  Isn’t that weird?  There is a reason. We need change to keep life fresh.   We need variety to make life interesting. I think that is one of the things the pandemic has forced our hand on.  We have to do some things differently—willing or not. While that is true in our personal journey, it is also true in our spiritual journey.

The one thing that gives me a confident assurance is that nothing is new to God.  He is never surprised and never caught off guard.  He never says, “Boy, I sure didn’t see that one coming!” It is great to belong to a God who is big enough to have everything under control. I love that in this world of constant change, He is a constant.  The writer of Hebrews said it best, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”  That means no matter where you go in the past—He was there and He was the same.  That means no matter where you go today—He is there and He is the same.  And that means no matter where the future takes you and no matter what it holds—He will be there and He will be the same.  He. Is. The. Same.

Like I said, I enjoy a little variety—a little change adds spice to life.  But when it comes to my Dearest Father, well, I like the sameness that He brings.  My circumstances, my mess-ups, even my fickleness doesn’t faze Him.  He is always the same.  And that same—well, it is just the best.  A guy named John in the New Testament wrote and said that it is just amazing, this love that God has for us…a love that extends out and allows us to be called His.  Yup…you gotta love that.

Let me suggest you occasionally try a new restaurant and or a new item on the menu. And if it has pork belly and pimento cheese on it—well, its got to be a winner.  But when it comes to choosing what god you will serve—there’s only one choice and that is Creator God.  Bigger than it all—ready and willing to handle our biggest problems and always ready to extend His grace our way—there’s no need to look any further.  Oh, and of course, as always, He’s got this.

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

It’s a “Dippity-Do-Dah” Day

If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  1 John 1:6

Dippity-do dah, dippy day, my oh my, what a wonderful day!  I joined the Air Force back in 1972 and in so many ways it was a different world.  At that time longer hair was still very much in vogue.  It seemed the only guys with shorter haircuts were either born in the 1920’s or in the military.  I was the latter.

It was also a different day in the way people view the military.  The country was coming out of the Vietnam era and sadly many saw veterans and the active military in a dark light.  I can well remember walking around town and getting the “one of those” look.  While I was never ashamed of being in the military, in fact, I was proud to serve, I did want to be cool—part of the in-crowd and short hair just wasn’t in.  But you know the old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Hello Dippity-do.

It’s funny, I don’t remember anyone else doing it nor do I remember how I started.  I found this hair stuff called, “Dippity-do.”  It was a gel like product and depending on how much you applied, it would make your hair stay where you put it.  So I bought a jar and slowly I let the hair on the top of my head and sides grow out.  I would wakeup in the morning and put this stuff, in fact a lot of this stuff, on my hair.  I would comb it kinda on top of my head and toward the back.  The effect was—well, effective. The funny part is when this stuff dried out it made my hair as solid as a rock.  Of course, my mom always said I had a hard head.

I found that I could have the required white-wall around my ears and have all this hair glued down to the top of my head.  When I got off work, I would go take a shower, wash this stuff out and believe it or not have enough hair to totally cover my ears.  I looked like any other guy in the early 1970’s.  Even as I write this I’m saying, “What?”  But believe me it worked.  I looked like a military guy during the day and a regular off-the-street guy at night.  Looking back, it was weird.

Even stranger I worked in the command section of my squadron and to show how effective my ruse was, no one said anything.  It looked, and I guess was, regulation.  I remember one day walking in the local mall and coming straight toward me was my squadron commander, Major Hobbs.  We passed within five feet of each other and he didn’t even recognize me. Yup—G.I. Joe by day and a 70’s hipster at night. Looking back there probably was a word for it.  It was probably pretty hypocritical.

The word hypocrite means to “play the part” or to “wear the mask.”  It was used to describe actors in ancient Greece who were one thing on stage and another off the stage.  The one thing I remember is that I always felt a certain amount of fear while doing this.  There was always the “what if I get called in and don’t have time to plaster my hair down” thing.  What if my commander and my first sergeant saw me and did recognize me?  I knew they respected me and what would happen to that respect?  It’s the feeling you get when you are one thing one time and another thing later.

Well, finally I figured it wasn’t worth it and I’ll tell you that story another time, but the bottom line is I went and got a regular haircut.  Two things happened almost immediately.  First, I felt free.  The fear of the wrong person seeing me at the wrong time was suddenly gone.  It was like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  The second thing that happened was I discovered that in spite of what the culture said, I was proud to be in the Air Force and that haircut identified me as part of a special family and team.  It wasn’t something to be ashamed of…it was something to be proud of.  And the best part, the girl I was dating, who I later married, thought I was even cuter.  Now for the funny part. I have been out of the military now for 36 years and I never, not even once, grew my hair out.  I decided I like shorter hair.  More than that…I decided I like being real.

So, what about you?  What is it in your life where you “wear the mask?”  What is it in your life where you have decided to pretend—to be something you aren’t?  While you find that in every aspect of life, sadly it’s also common in the Jesus follower world.  People say one thing and do another—people who act one way on Sunday and another the rest of week.  If I learned anything from my Dippity-do world is that authenticity beats a plastic mask every time. 

John, one of the guys who followed Jesus in the Bible, said it pretty well.  He said, “If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  In other words, if we say we are one thing and really are another—we are just living a lie.  It is better to be real than fake.  It is better to be authentic than counterfeit.  I may have fooled my commander that day but I never fool God when I choose to be one thing in public and another in private.  But the one thing I love about God is that He never rejects me.  He is never ashamed to call me His child. I can always rest in Him and more than that, He can handle who I am—Dippity-do and all.  He’s got this.

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

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-four years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance was spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every Spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the Spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home and I would go with the choir.  So on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours and it was a larger church so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack and we needed to go home to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending, it was after hours, I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew He was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around but it is just packed with truth. It says, “we know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three hour drive to South Georgia with a six week old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this. 

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

Tripe and Gossip

The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Proverbs 20:19

The more I chewed the bigger it got.  I have lots of food memories from growing up.  First you need to remember that I was born in the South and folks from the South have a whole different way of eating.  And trust me…that means it was good…mostly.  I can remember fried chicken Sunday dinners with green beans and mashed potatoes…the kind that didn’t come from a box but from a real potato.  A lot of Sundays we had pot roast with those same yummy potatoes and green beans.

My mama made really good biscuits.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have dessert we really didn’t need it.  We would just take one of mama’s biscuits, slather it with butter and then pour cane syrup all over it.  Shoot-that-thing! You don’t know good if you’ve never had homemade biscuits and syrup.  Now with all that said, there were a few things we had that were a bit—different.

I remember I decided to try something new with my peanut butter. It could have been that we were out of jelly but anyway I got the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, smeared it on some bread and then loaded on the peanut butter.  Bam…just like that a new delicacy was born.  That became one of my favorites for years.  One day I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways.

We didn’t have a whole lot of candy growing up and I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  Somewhere along the journey I discovered the sugar bowl.  Did you know you can get a teaspoon full of sugar and put it in your mouth and it tastes like a candy bar?  Well, it probably didn’t taste like a Snickers, but it was plenty sweet.  You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

School lunches were always an adventure.  There were deviled egg sandwiches (awesome), deviled egg sandwiches with potted meat mixed in (not so awesome), potted meat sandwiches without deviled eggs (yuk) and finally Vienna sausages (uh, well, somewhat good).  You just never knew what mom was going to put in the lunch bag.  My all-time favorite was pimento cheese.  To this day that is one of my favorites. And then there was—tripe.

Tripe wasn’t a lunch item, it was always for supper.  Some of you may not have discovered the wonder of tripe or even know what it is.  Well, for those of you who don’t know tripe is cow’s stomach.  Yup and let me just tell you it was an experience.  It always smelled great cooking but eating it was a real challenge.  Mama usually cut it up in pretty small pieces but you still had to get a sharp knife to get it down to bite size.  Now tripe was…chewy.  In fact, tripe was very chewy.  Which is why it never made it into the lunch bag—it took two hours to eat one small piece.  You see, the more you chewed it, the bigger it got! 

I’ve heard it said that celery is one of those negative calorie foods…it actually takes more calories to chew it and digest it than are in the food itself.  I think tripe must be one of those also.  In fact, I am sure there is a tripe diet somewhere out there.  You take a bite, chew for two hours and bam…lose two pounds.  Good, ole, tripe.  The supper of champions.

You do know that gossip is a lot like tripe don’t you?  You mutter a few words about your friend and before you know it, you have yourself a belly full of trouble. Those few hurtful words just get bigger and more hurtful each time they are repeated. Feelings get hurt, relationships are broken and talk about a belly ache…oh yeah.  While the Bible doesn’t say much about tripe it does say a lot about gossip.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 20:19, “The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.”  How’s that for being straight to the point?

One of the best ways to avoid gossip is to remember a couple of things.  If the person you are telling isn’t part of the problem…don’t tell them. Also, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face you shouldn’t share it behind their back.  Now the problem is, most of us just love a good piece of juicy gossip.  The Bible says, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” That might be true but I know one more thing about tripe.  If it gets stuck in your throat you are in deep weeds.  That choice piece of gossip can get stuck too, and can cause heart breaking consequences.

Well, I gave up tripe a long time ago.  I guess I had enough when I was a kid.  I wish I could say I have totally given up gossip the same way.  I have found out given half-a-chance I can find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…” and that tripe-like-sin is right back in my mouth.  We just need to be careful to keep it out of our mouth.  The good news is Jesus is more than willing to help if you ask.  He can handle all kind of things whether it be a tough piece of tripe stuck in the wrong place or a juicy piece of gossip right on your lips.  Just ask Him.  He will help cause He’s got …even this. 

Posted in Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, Scripture, Southern born, travel, wisdom

Bruiser

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 all of a sudden 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.”   He 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 pretty 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. 

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

“No Trespassing”

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

It was kinda confusing.  A while back I was walking in our neighborhood.  It was early in the morning and the birds were singing, the sun was shining and as Mister Rogers would say, “It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  As I was walking I would look at the different houses and their yards.  I noticed that several, well actually more than several, of the homes had “no trespassing” signs in their yard or stuck on the house. One home had six or seven signs and about a half dozen security cameras.  I think they must have had something really important inside.

I’m not sure what the deal is but probably there is a valid reason. But being from the South, we generally didn’t stick “no trespassing” signs up in our yard.  More than likely we stuck up a “hey, y’all come on in” sign.  Of course, that was several decades ago and maybe now they have some not so friendly signs down South too.  At any rate this is America and you can pretty much put up what you want as long as it isn’t too mean.  But then there was one house that kinda confused me.

As you probably can guess they had a “no trespassing” sign up.  But right next to the “no trespassing” sign they had a big “welcome” sign.  It caused me to wonder. Which one was correct?  I didn’t know if I was welcome to come up on the porch and sit or if I would be shot if I did.  I wasn’t sure so I kept right on walking because I was real sure I didn’t want to find out. Oftentimes we seem to send conflicting messages.

Sometimes I see this is at churches.  There will be a sign on the message board that says “everyone welcome”.  There might even be a parking spot in the parking lot that says, “reserved for guests.”  Sometimes they have people standing at the door to shake your hand when you come in.  But then I wonder, “do they really mean that or are they trying to act nice?”  I mean everyone expects churches to be friendly because Jesus was.  He liked everybody.  I heard a preacher say once that it was pretty amazing that the people who were the least like Jesus were the ones that felt the most comfortable around Him.  It seemed they liked Him and He liked them.

On the other hand, Jesus was always bumping heads with the religious elite.  Theoretically they should have been the most like Him, but they didn’t like Him and I’m not sure He was too fond of them.  Of course, Jesus was always trying to find the best in others but some of those guys in the New Testament were really mean.  I don’t think there was a “welcome” sign on their house for either Jesus or His friends

There was one group they really didn’t like, the tax collectors.  Because tax collectors worked for the Roman government, they were seen as thieves and traitors. But do you know what Jesus did?  Jesus invited a tax collector to be one of them, to be a part of His inner circle.  Can you even imagine that? “Hey Matthew,” Jesus said, “why don’t you come and be a part of our group?”  I bet the religious guys about fainted and so did the rest of Jesus’s followers.  I can just hear them now, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.”  They might have been right, but Jesus was always more concerned for the neighbor than the neighborhood.  He did more than talk about loving people, He really loved people.

When Jesus was explaining to those who followed Him how people would know that they were His friends, do you know what He said?  It wasn’t because they went to church on Sunday.  It wasn’t because they knew all the answers.  And it wasn’t even because they wore the right kind of clothes when they were hanging around Jesus.  Nope.  Jesus said that people would know that we were His friends because of the way we loved—and in particular, the way we loved each other.  Whenever I share about that, it never goes over very well.  The reason is that it is a lot easier to dress right, talk right and go to church than to love someone—particularly someone who is not very lovable.  But that is what He said we should do. There is a secret to loving others. 

We need to remember that when we were not lovable at all, Jesus chose to love us.  And if we will let that roll around in our heads and hearts awhile, I think we will find that loving others is just a little bit easier.  The next time you are all worked up about something, maybe trying to love someone, just get up next to Jesus and sit awhile.  You won’t find a “no trespassing” sign there…just one that says “welcome.”  And you can just sit back and let Him handle whatever you’re stressed about…cause He’s got this.