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

Unclean, But not Unloved

If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

Well, it is finally over and I am glad.  I recently discovered this COVID thing is a pain in the neck.  I didn’t have it and I guess a metaphorical pain in the neck is not one of the official symptoms. What I did get to discover is what happens when it gets close.  I also discovered that when COVID comes knocking it’s gonna mess with your normal—like it or not.

A little over a couple of weeks ago, one of our church staff members tested positive for the virus.  When that was reported to the health department it messed with my normal—our normal.  First, because our entire staff had been in a room with the positive case, we all were placed on quarantine.  Like it or not, stomp your foot if you want—we were locked up for two weeks.  Fortunately, no one else got it and today the office at church will be back open. Yay.  Second, because there were several other cases spread across the church family, most not related in any way, we had to go to remote worship for a couple of weeks.  This Wednesday and Sunday we should be back on campus.  Yay.

If you haven’t experienced the quarantine thing…count your blessings.  You might ask, “Dewayne, what was it like?”  Well, I guess it depends on your perspective.  I know it was personally frustrating.  I found myself telling whoever would listen that I didn’t have time to be quarantined.  Of course, being the creative guy that I am, I found a few ways to work around it while not being around people but that is my secret.  Smile.

I think I came away with a better understanding of the impact this has on the lives of people—and not just those who test positive.  The isolation and the stigma reminded me of what  lepers must have gone though in the Bible.  They had to live apart from everyone one else and should they encounter someone they had to holler out, “Unclean, unclean.”  Well, I didn’t encounter anyone so I didn’t do much hollering, but I did wonder when I saw someone from a distance, “What if they knew I was on lock up?  Would they would treat me differently?”  And I decided that they would. I also decided it would hurt my heart.

I wonder how many people we encounter in our walk about world who have been beaten up and scarred by the world who feel the same way?  Do our stares and our intentional avoidance cause them to hurt?  I bet it does.  You know, our eyes and body language sometimes speak louder than our words.  I love the fact that Jesus never avoided the broken ones around Him.  If they had leprosy, He would love them and touch them.  If they were outcast by society because they were prostitutes or tax collectors, He would love them and touch them. If they were Romans soldiers who nailed people to crosses—even Him to His—He would love them and touch them if He could.  I like that…a lot.

COVID gets all the attention now and I guess that’s to be expected.  There’s a lot of positive cases going around.  Businesses are hurting, families are stressing, and people are filled with fear.  What should we do? What can we do?  Well, if you are a Jesus follower, the answer is do what He would do.  Touch them and love them. I know you can’t always physically touch them, but you can reach out with the compassion and love of Jesus. It is amazing how a kind word or gesture can bring comfort, assurance and acceptance.

Like I said, the quarantine for our staff is over and it has been a learning experience.  What is not over is the virus.  What is not over is the brokenness in our world—however big or small that world may be.  What is not over is the need for Jesus people to be like Jesus. He said that if we really love Him, we should keep His commands.  And there are two that are at the top of His list—love God and love people.  One of the best ways to show our love for God is to show His love for those He created.  All of them.  Social status, skin color, or whatever label we tend to put on them just doesn’t matter.  So, when you bump into someone today, either from a distance or up close, be sure and love them like Jesus and leave the details to God.  You can rest in this one essential, nonnegotiable fact:  He’s got this.

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

Mama Knows Best

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Mama always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good mama and daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but everyday.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and mama mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Mama was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with some kind of stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and mama sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach but it sure made my heart feel better.

Mama had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, mama was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess mama thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, mama just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us and mama was always there to help us get better.

However, mama didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil and I made a sign warning others to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, mama’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so mama took her to the doctor and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to mama that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, mama agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted and I was in.  So a few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about mama’s medical skills and judgement but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my mama loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, mama always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my mama was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that every thing is good but that God can bring good from all things.  I know mama loved me a lot but even her love has to pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my mama loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomach ache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”

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

“Firsts”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Grade-A Prime Day

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:16-17

It was a one-of-a-kind day.  If we graded days like meat it would have been USDA Grade-A Prime.  This Grade-A day actually started the night before. I sat on the porch and watched the moon rise, picture framed by Jupiter and Saturn.  Just a few minutes later a magnificent falling star streaked across the sky. We had some smooth jazz music playing but turned it off in favor of the symphony of nature sounds that were playing.  Crickets, tree frogs, cicadas, and a hoot owl all played their song in perfect harmony.

Then came morning. I love fall.  The cooler air and the absence of the “air-you-can-wear” makes me a happy camper. On the morning of this USDA Grade-A Prime day, it all came together.  The sun slowly turned night to day as it pulled back the curtain of darkness and allowed the light to come out and play. We had a great time at church, followed by a lunch of good old Kentucky Fried Chicken with all the fixins’s—mashed potatoes and gravy, baked beans, cole slaw and biscuits.  For dessert I had a nice Sunday afternoon nap.  It was a great day.

After getting up from my Sunday slumber we decided to go gatoring. What is gatoring?  Well, first I made it up.  Second, it is taking a ride through the woods in a John Deere Gator.  It is a two or four wheel drive vehicle that allows you to go most everywhere without getting stuck. So, off we went.  The first thing we noticed was the trees seemed to be changing colors right before our eyes.  Peeks of yellow and red could be found on every tree.  The trail was covered with leaves that had already fallen from their lofty heights.

As we pressed on we saw squirrels scurrying in the forest bottoms.  The ground was covered with hickory nuts and they were busy gathering them to get ready for winter.  We stopped at one spot along the trail to watch a wild turkey.  I don’t know if the fact that Thanksgiving is getting close or not but she took off pretty quickly. I mean it wasn’t like Judy started mixing up dressing or anything.

The prettiest colors came from an unlikely source.  Poison Ivy.  The forest floor was literally covered with it.  Almost every tree had more than one vine growing up its side.  The leaves, normally a rather ordinary color of green, were busting with colors of red and yellow.  Judy and I both wondered how something that could cause so much discomfort on your skin could bring so much wonder to the eyes. Amazing indeed.

We came to a large lake and stopped for a moment.  I said to Judy, “All we need now is for an eagle to swoop down and grab a fish from the lake.”  Just moments after the words left my lips two adult eagles in all their glory—-heads hooded in white as were their tail feathers and a large massive body and wingspan—launched from a nearby tree.  They didn’t grab a fish as they glided over the lake but they didn’t need too—I was already impressed beyond words.

As they glided over the water away from us and out of sight, we moved on and too soon we were back at the house.  I looked at Judy and said for what seemed like the 10th time.  “Judy, what an incredible day.”  And what made it so incredible wasn’t all that we had seen—oh, no,  it was the incredible Creator behind it all.  Every smallest detail was made by Him and that day, well, it seemed it was all just for us.

I know I say it a lot but let me say it again.  In this crazy, upside-down world where the tiniest of germs cause the greatest fear, where injustice has divided our nation and  where the word “indivisible” in our pledge almost seems out of place—in this world—there is still hope.  It is not a time to give up—it is a time to press on.  It is not a time to quake in fear, it is a time to stand in faith—not faith in ourselves but faith in Him who made it all.

The Bible encourages us to trust in the One who rules it all.  It tells us to rest in the fact that the Son of God who died for the sins of the whole world wants to make His home with us and in us. How amazing is that.  But the best part is that it tells us to sink our roots deep into His love.  You see a root draws up whatever it is tapped into—in this case—that is the love of God.  And you know…that is exactly what we and the world need—His love.  So the next time a Grade-A Prime Day shows up—enjoy it, rest in it because He made it with you in mind.  As His child you need to know He is real partial to you so rest in Him.  Oh, and never forget, He’s got this.

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

Facing Down Mortality

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I look and see my mortality.  Now don’t think for a moment this is one of those “Debbie Downer” stories.  In fact, in a way, it might be the best news you will hear all day, all week, well, for always.  So, I am sixty-six years old.  I know, I can’t believe it either. And all around me are signs that I am mortal.  Remember that—all of us are mortal. I have been at my present position as a pastor for 20 years.  I came to the church I serve in 2000 when I was 46 years old.  I must have dozed off because just like that 20 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married 44 years.  And the best part?  It has been, and is, a great ride.

But then I did the math.  When, and if, the next 20 years tick off the clock called life, I will be 86 years old.  I find that astounding.  We Taylor boys don’t have a real good track record when it comes to longevity.  Three of my four brothers, all older than me, have already moved to heaven.  Our clock is ticking and we don’t know when the last tick will come.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

I live my life by the calendar.  I speak to my church every Wednesday and every Sunday. It seems I no more finish one message before it is time to deliver the next.  The weeks fly by.  Every first of the month I speak on the radio on a local program called “The Baptist Hour.”  My tag line is, “Can you believe another month has come and gone?” And the answer each month is, “No, I really can’t.” I remember on the first of February, after a speedy January, I made a joke about it being Christmas before we know it.  Well, next week is the first of October and Christmas is indeed just around the corner. Time flies by.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Part of “The Baptist Hour” is the reading of the funeral arrangements of those who recently died.  Invariably there are several, often more than a few.  I’m learning that too often the names being read belong to people my age or younger.  Recently an acquaintance in our small town suddenly died—a massive heart attack.  He was younger than me.  That really caused me to stop and ponder.  It was a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Here’s what I am learning.  Time is relative.  We are eternal beings made and destined to spend forever somewhere.  That destination doesn’t depend on good or bad, church or no church, religion or not.  Does that surprise you?  You see, heaven isn’t for good people and hell isn’t for bad people. No, where we spend eternity is about forgiveness of sin and that forgiveness is a free gift from God to anyone…anyone…who asks.  I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I know that sounds narrow but when you consider that God invites everyone to the party—well, it is really pretty broad. We read in the Bible that the payment for sin is death and radically Jesus came for one purpose—to willingly die and pay that price.

So, if we are eternal beings and if we place our trust, our faith in this one of a kind, God-man named Jesus, that means that when we die we can spend eternity in this place called heaven.  When Jesus said that if anyone would believe in Him they would never die—that’s what He meant. And then He closes with that all important question, “Do you believe this?”

With Jesus in the equation, death isn’t the end, it is a beginning.  That might sound wacky to you.  However, before you chuck it out I challenge you to check it out.  Get a copy of the Bible and read the four different accounts or stories about Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You might find yourself intrigued and amazed.

I read a true story yesterday about a man’s perception of his mortality. This guy happened to be a minister and he went to the doctor and got some sobering news.  He was terminally ill with no chance of recovery. The doctor told him he had about a year to live.  He left the doctor’s office and went to one of his favorite spots—you know, to kinda take it in. Now, allow me to let the man tell his story. “I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. And I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and river, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea.’”

Wow…what wonderfully strong words.  If this whole God story is true, and I honestly believe it is, then people who trust that Jesus is the path to God and heaven, will outlive the mountains and the rivers. We may change addresses but we will live forever.  I know this is probably a different kind of story than we usually share together, but I hope it will make us think about what happens next. For myself and so many others, it makes all the sense in the world—and beyond.  I’m grateful for the eternal part but I also love the part of the story that says He is with me now—COVID mess and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.

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

Joy Comes in the Morning

Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5

Day in and day out—they just sit there.  I work at a church and consequently at the church office.  It is good place to work and it’s always nice to work with good people.  I was sitting in the outer office and the administrative and ministerial staff were having our daily COVID discussion.  I made the comment that if I spoke 1,000 words in one day, at least 800 of them would involve COVID.  Sigh.

I was sitting in a chair and I noticed something that I see every day, but for some reason that time it made me stop and think.  Next to the chair, on a table in front of the window there are three pots.  The pots are amaryllis plants.  The plants have grown some long, green leaves but frankly they are, well, unattractive.  They don’t look healthy, they don’t look happy—they look like they are just existing.

You might be asking, “Why would anyone want a plant like that?”  Well, the answer is quite simple—when it blooms it is in a word, magnificent.  Though they come in several colors, the most common is red.  My daddy raised them in our southern yard and they were the talk of the neighborhood.  I remember he had one that was pure white…I believe it was quite rare.  Apparently someone really like it also, because they dug it up and stole it.  Daddy wasn’t very happy.

Now these plants we have in the office don’t bloom.  They were Christmas gifts to someone, and they bloomed then, but ever since—nothing, just green, saggy, sad leaves.  Now I’m not totally sure, but I believe there is a reason.  I’ve read that in order for them to bloom they need to hurt.  It goes like this.  First, you cut the stalk off.  Then a little later you stop watering the plant and the leaves die.  After that, it goes in a totally dark place for about eight weeks.  Finally, after the period of pain, you bring it back into the light and start watering it again and it will bloom again in all its glory.  Before the bloom, there has to be a period of pain.

I guess I didn’t realize that when our Creator made us, He could have had an amaryllis plant in mind.  You see, it is true that for us to become the beautiful creation God intends us to be—then some pain must come into our lives.  Oh, I know, we love the sunny days, but you and I both know without some rain—things would never grow—never bloom. It is also true that during the times in our lives when dryness occurs and darkness overcomes us that two beautiful things happen.

First, we learn to trust our God.  It is one of our natural bents that we tend to put God on the back burner when things are going well—especially when they are good for a long time.  I suppose this COVID mess has helped a lot of us to grow in our faith, our trust in God.  I heard it said once that while the view from the mountain top is beautiful, it is often barren.  It is in the valleys where the lush, green forests and meadows grow.  So true for us too.

Second, we develop character.  Those dark times, those difficult times, steel us and make us strong.  You see, character is what you are, what you do when no one else is watching.  That is true.  Take people off the stage of life and often the real person is nothing like the actor on public stage.  When we are going through those “valley of the shadow of death” times, it is there we have the opportunity to grow stronger. It is there when we prepare to once again bloom.  Remove the pain and we are like the amaryllis—a few sad, saggy leaves—never truly knowing the fullness and purpose of our God-called life. We need to remember what the Psalmist says, “weeping may last for the night…but joy comes in the morning.”

Well, I hope someone will have the courage to help our flowers bloom again.  As they are, they are just part of the landscape of the office but with a little help—they could take center stage.  I’m glad there is Someone who is willing to invest in us, who loves us enough to allow some dry times and painful times to help us grow and bloom.  This present time may well be one of those times.  Maybe we, maybe you, aren’t ready yet but perhaps one day, we will be able to say “thank-you” for all the difficult times in our lives that helped us to blossom.  Until then, let’s trust in the Master Gardner, let’s rest in Him…even if it means darkness.  Let’s choose to believe—have faith that He’s got this.

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

Blueberry Crumble and More

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Wonderful Night – Night of Wonders

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.” Psalm 19:1-3

It was a wonderful, wonder filled night.  It was Friday night and it was beautiful.  After a day of cool temperatures and clear skies the sun bowed out and night moved in.  My wife and I decided to build a fire out on our patio and just enjoy the evening.  So using my incredible fire building skills, which included opening one of those wax logs and lighting it, we soon were enjoying its warmth. It was perfect. As the smoke rose into the crystal clear sky it caused me to pause and be amazed.  I agreed with God. After He was done with creation, He said it was very good.  He was right.

The slowly rising smoke caused me to look to the skies.  As darkness settled in, slowly, ever so slowly, the stars came out for their evening performance.  That was good too.  And then I noticed what we see and rarely stop to ponder.  Streaking across the sky was a jetliner.  By now it was only visible because of its flashing navigation lights.  Here’s what is so amazing.  That cylinder tube with wings was flying at about 30,000 feet…that’s almost six miles up in the sky.  It weighed in at approximately 175,000 pounds and was carrying dozens of people.  Pause.  A man-made object, weighing 87.5 TONS is effortlessly moving through the sky at a speed of right around 500 miles per hour.  That is amazing.

Now you may be one of those folks who believe that we humans showed up from a glob of jelly laying on a beach somewhere but personally, I don’t have that much faith.  I believe that there is a Creator God and He made us…fearfully and wonderfully…He made us.  How else do you explain 87.5 tons zipping through the air?  You could cite the law of aerodynamics but even that law was figured out and applied by God’s most wonderful creation.  But it gets better.

A little later I told Judy that it would be very cool if the space station flew over.  Now this modern marvel flies out in space—that’s why it is called the “space” station.  Get ready to be amazed.  It flies 240 miles above the earth at a speed of 17,136 miles an hour.  It weighs in at 925,000 pounds.  Currently there are three people on board, an American and two Russians and they have been on board for 165 days.  Can someone say, “amazing?”

Well, my neighbor happened to come home and we were chatting.  He looks up and says, “Oh, there goes a satellite.” I got up and looked and it wasn’t a satellite…it was the space station and it was amazing.  I have seen it several times but each time I am just amazed.  I’m amazed not at what man built as much as the God who created man and gave him the intellect and ability to create and build.  Once again…God and I agreed…it was very good.

The night crept on and I look up again and noticed one very bright star in the Southern sky accompanied by a little sister just to its left.  I asked Judy, “I wonder what star that is?”  So, we got on our handy iPhones and looked it up.  It turns out that they were not stars at all but two of the planets that circle our sun…Jupiter and Saturn.  Jupiter was the star of the show by far—pun intended.  Here’s what is really amazing.

The light that I saw coming from Jupiter that night had travelled 43 minutes through space to get to earth.  That may not seem too impressive until you consider the speed of light is 186,000 miles per SECOND. How’s that for a wow? You see, as wonderful as jetliners and space stations are…they pale to what God did all by himself.  I just had to agree with God again…it is very good.

But Jupiter is just one small planet in our small solar system, that is a small part in our relatively small galaxy called the Milky Way.  And beyond our little galaxy there are millions and millions of galaxies.  What we see with our naked eye is just a fraction of all that is out there.  And all of it exists for one reason and one reason only.  The Bible tells us that the heavens are there to declare the glory of God.  All of those stars, solar systems, and galaxies are there to sing the praises of our incredible God.  And He is worth every note and million, zillion more besides.

Tonight, if the skies are clear, go out and take a peek.  You might see a jetliner streaking across the sky and maybe even the space station, but what you certainly will see is God’s choir singing the praises of their creator.  Maybe you should join them in a chorus or two.  Oh, and be sure and sing what should be your favorite God song.  It goes something like this, “I can rest in the arms of my Dearest Daddy for He holds me secure.  I can go to sleep tonight knowing He has this…because He does.”  Amen. 


Photo credit: Austin Kennedy, the Shawnee National Forest, September 29. 2020

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

Bang, Bang

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

I waited and waited and it seemed like it would never come. People say that good things come to those who wait.  I’ve heard that a lot but I’m not sure I believe it.  In fact, I’m not even sure I know what it means.  But one thing is sure…I know what it means to wait…especially if it involves the government and a by-pass.

When I came to Harrisburg in 2000, we bought a house on West Poplar Street. Now back in those days that was THE main drag.   Every car and truck going East and West through Harrisburg had to travel down Poplar Street.  When we looked at the house we were told that a by-pass was on the planning board and would be done within five years.  Well, that sounded pretty good, so we bought the house and waited…and waited…and waited.  As it turned out it was a little longer than five years.  In fact—it was almost twelve.

Now in our 20th year at 217, I am grateful, very grateful, that the by-pass finally came. I know some folks weren’t sure we even needed one and some went another way so they are indifferent.  You might ask, “What’s the big deal about the by-pass?  Well if you have ever lived on West Poplar Street…you would know.

You see, Mr. Bob, my neighbor back in the days before the by-pass, told me that he counted in one day, and 60 semi-trucks went by his house in one hour–that is one per minute.  In those days there were probably more coal trucks, but believe me there were  still plenty of trucks.  You kinda wondered where in the world they were all going.

Now check this out…for the first seven years…count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years or 2,555 days, there was a hole in the road right before my house. Every time a semi-truck went by it would hit that hole with a resounding “BANG.”  Allowing for 60 trucks an hour and 12 driving hours in a day that equates to 1,839,600 bangs. Remember how people say if you live by a railroad track long enough you stop hearing the whistle?  Trust me…that does not apply to bangs.

Now do you understand why I was so excited about the bypass?  Oh, and did I mention waiting two or three minutes just to get out of my driveway?  So, we waited and finally in 2012, the bypass opened and traffic was drastically reduced. Oh, and gravy on the mashed potatoes…they even fixed the hole.

I guess it is true, good things come to those who wait.  But waiting is hard.  There was a lady in the gospels who was sick for twelve long years…about the same time I waited for the by-pass.  She had been to doctor after doctor and the only thing that left her was all her money.  Then she met Jesus and He changed everything. She was overwhelmed with gratitude.

I supposed that is the one good thing about waiting. When, and if, what you are waiting on comes to pass, you are usually pretty grateful.  She was, I am, and you would be too.  The psalmist writes, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

Down in the South we say, “a watched pot never boils.” Well that isn’t true…it will boil, but it sure seems to take longer. So, if there is something in your life and you are praying and you are waiting, be patient.  Wait on the Lord and who knows, your “by-pass” may come too.  All this COVID hot mess has definitely stuck around longer than I ever thought. I still believe, though, that it hasn’t come to stay…it has come to pass.

I think this afternoon I will go sit in my quieter front yard and take a rest with the God who made all of this.  He even had a big hand in the by-pass! After that, I’ll just remind myself that no matter what…He’s got this.

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

Divine Rescue

Taste and see that the Lord is good. How happy is the person who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

It was a close call.  It all started several months ago when I received an email from a website called “Travelzoo.”  Each Wednesday they send out a “Top 20” list of their best travel deals.  Well, in June that list included a really, good deal at a really nice hotel in Naples. Now you probably ought to know that one thing trumps all else when it comes to me and hotels:  PRICE. I love a good deal.  But this one had a great price along with a nice pool, hot tub, great decor, good location and a free shuttle to the beach. I talked it over with Judy and we began making plans for a trip to Southwest Florida.

Well, as time went by, I arranged our flight to and from Naples and of course the now famous car rental—a Mustang convertible.  Well, as the days got closer, and for a reason I don’t remember, I just started wondering if we should look at another place to stay—something with more space, perhaps a kitchen—you know, a small condo.  So, we started looking and low and behold we found one—actually me, Mr. Price Trumps Everything, found one.  Yes, it was a bit more expensive and it wasn’t in Naples but rather Fort Myers Beach.  But it seemed to be saying, “Rent me.”  We did.

Now there are lots of ways I can tell this story but perhaps the shorter version is the best version.  I apply this often to my sermons—NOT.  As we get to Fort Myers, we find this condo is a home-run, grand slam.  It overlooks this large, beautiful bay with a fabulous view from the seventh floor.  It had a large balcony and the living room wall was floor to ceiling glass.  It really was amazing.  Fish and dolphins were jumping in the bay, birds were everywhere, boats zipped up and down the channel, and each morning a beautiful sunrise greeted us.  Paradise.

Ok, so now, fast forward.  We left there on Wednesday and drove down to the keys in our Mustang convertible (can someone say, “cool”) and stayed for a couple of days before returning to Naples on Friday, to spend the night and fly home on Saturday morning.  So…we spend Friday night in the hotel we had originally booked for the first six nights of vacation.  Now, it was nice, but there were no restaurants nearby, the beach was several, and I do mean several, miles away.  The room was small with no fish or dolphins jumping anywhere, no birds, no boats, and no morning sunrise to say “Hi.”

Now that was fine for one night.  However, I looked at Judy and she looked at me and we both realized we had been blessed and rescued.  That small room could have been our home not for one night but six nights and every meal would have meant a hunt for a restaurant.  And anytime, and I mean anytime, we were outside our room and in the building, a mask was required.  The whole tenor of the vacation would have changed. It would have been away but that was just about it.  Away.

Let me tell you that we firmly believe that our Dearest Father acted on our behalf.  He knew we would not have been happy for six nights in that hotel and He whispered and nudged at just the right time and gently moved us in another direction…a direction that exceeded our needs and expectations.  It occurred to both of us that God had sent us a love note.  God knew what we needed better than we did.  He knew that saving a few bucks paled in comparison to what He had picked for us!  It was so cool.

We had a great time.  And over and over, throughout the time we were there, we kept saying, “God rescued us” and we knew it was true.  And here’s the best part—while we got to recognize this one, I wonder just how many times and how many ways does He do it over and over again?  He works behind the scenes, silently changing plans and directing our steps towards His blessings and away from our disasters.  I believe when we get to heaven it is going to be crazy good. We will see Jesus and our loved ones who knew Jesus and have gone before us. It’s gonna be awesome. But until then the Psalmist says we should just keep tasting, keep discovering just how good God is and that will keep us busy for a long time.

I think one of my favorite things about heaven is going to be the fact that we will finally see all the ways that God acted on in our behalf.  I can imagine the walls of heaven covered with sticky notes—love notes from our Dearest Daddy to me and you—all saying in a million different ways, “I love you.”  Oh, I know it won’t be exactly like that but I also know in heaven I will see all the things He did for me.  I can’t wait.  Till then I’m going to have to be satisfied with the times I see them and the times we get to sit together and rest in our love…especially His for me.  Oh, and then there are the times when I realize, I know, that He’s got this.  And that is in everything and every day.  How about that?