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

Daddy’s Babies

Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” 1 John 4:11

Daddy had eight children and a whole lot of babies.  I was always amazed that Daddy and Momma had eight children.  I’m not sure they ever figured out what was going on, but I sure am glad it took them as long as it did!  If they had stopped a little sooner, well, I wouldn’t have made the cut. In the Taylor tribe we all know they were striving for perfection, and it just took a while—you know the whole saving the best for last thing.  Honestly, and not kidding, maybe too they knew that the things that really matter in life can’t be found in a store.  Maybe they realized that family, and lots of it, was better than fancy houses and nice cars.

Well, like I said, my Daddy had lots of other babies besides the ones he and Momma gave names too.  You see, my Daddy loved flowers.  He loved his amaryllises, and he loved his bromeliads. The first he would carefully cultivate and sometimes even guard.  I remember he had a beautiful all white one that someone actually dug up and stole from our yard.  He was not happy.  The bromeliads were placed under the large oak trees we had and needed just a little care…until the weather changed.  Since it was north Florida, it didn’t happen often but sometimes the temperature would drop near freezing and when it did, the call always rang out, “Dewayne, you need to bring in the bromeliads”.  That meant carrying each pot into the breezeway or garage to protect them from the cold.  They were scratchy and heavy but all that didn’t matter.  He had to protect the babies.

His most favorite babies also needed the most care.  They lived in the backyard in a large diamond shaped garden.  It was his prized rose garden.  I can’t remember exactly how many lived there but it was probably a couple dozen or more.  These did have names and three that stick out in my memory are Mr. Lincoln, Peace, and Tropicana. I do remember that across the backyard these needy, sticky, bushes rewarded him and us with beautiful blooms throughout the growing season. But…they were needy.

Daddy would come home from work about four, have a cup of coffee with Momma in the backyard under the tree and then see what the babies needed.  Sometimes, often actually, there was pruning to do.  I know regular flowering bushes get “deadheaded” but that was much too common for Daddy’s babies…they were always pruned. They also frequently needed to be sprayed with an insecticide.  It seemed bugs liked his roses as much as he did. Then, about once a month they needed to be fertilized.  He would go from bush to bush, adding a small cup of granular fertilizer and then work it into the soil and pine straw that nestled at the base of every bush.

All that was pretty much left to the expert eye and care of my Daddy but there was one thing that often fell to me.  I would come home from school and soon Momma would say, “Dewayne, Daddy wants you to water the rosebushes before he gets home.”  Now I need to be honest and say that is not something I wanted to hear or do.  The water hose needed to be placed at the base of each bush and the water slowly, and I do mean slowly, allowed to seep into the dirt.  It easily took an hour and a half to complete the task and whining or not…I did it.  One, Daddy said to do it and that was probably the biggest motivation but there was another.  I was helping take care of something he loved and that was important too.

Well, eventually, I grew up and moved away, Daddy went to be with Jesus, Momma sold the house, and a lot of the babies were left behind.  I’m sure some were taken and moved but others were just gone…all but the memories of a man who loved his babies and loved his kids.  Looking back, I appreciate now those hours moving the hose from bush to bush.  Looking back, I realize it wasn’t about watering bushes…it was about honoring him and pleasing him.  It was about loving what he loved.

Did you know that is a lot of what serving God is all about?  You see, God loves this old, broken world…always has and I always will.  He loves each of His “babies” and longs for them to come into relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus.  He has even asked us to “water the garden” by sharing that good news with those around us who don’t know Him yet. I know it can sometimes be scary or maybe inconvenient. It might even be we figure some of them just aren’t worthy of His love and forgiveness. Well, the truth is that would be all of us because we are all broken and messed up but that never stopped God from caring and loving us.  And because He loved us…we should love others.

In His Book, John wrote and said, “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” So today, why not look for a way to “water” someone’s life with a little love, a little grace and a little kindness.  That would make Him smile.  And He is just waiting to help you.  Daddy showed me how to water his babies and our Dearest Daddy will do the same.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

The Rock

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17

The Rock.  If you talk to someone that has done “hard time” they will probably think you are talking about Alcatraz.  If you talk to someone who likes action movies, they will probably think you are talking about Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson.  But if you are talking to me or my wife Judy, then we will know you are talking about “the rock.”  It’s a long story.

Judy and I met and fell in love in short order.  I walked into her church one Wednesday night. I asked her out the next week and ever since then we have been a “we”.  We were together as much as possible—we wanted to be together as much as possible. Since my Daddy had passed away that summer, Mama decided to spend Thanksgiving with my brother Joe up in the mountains, and I was invited to come join them.  It was a deal because I really wanted to be with Judy, but I knew my place was with family and my Mama especially.  So, I went.  I told Judy I would miss her, and I would bring her something back from the mountains.

Now I’m known for doing crazy things—it’s just me. While in the mountains I tried to think of something to take to Judy.  It didn’t seem appropriate to take her a typical souvenir, so I got an idea.  I would take her part of the mountains. I went out and found a rock. It was about the size of a pumpkin roll…elongated and was even orange with white stripes. As Thanksgiving rocks go…it was a pretty, good one.  I washed it up and put it in the car.  Game. Set. Match.

I’m sure in the book of love etiquette there is a chapter on what to bring your love when you go to the mountains.  I am also sure if I had read that chapter a rock would not have made the cut.  But hey, I was inexperienced.  So, I get back to Valdosta where I was stationed in the Air Force and where Judy lived.  After the appropriate number of hugs and kisses I presented her with her gift.  She seemed thrilled and seemed to appreciate my thoughtfulness.  Please note the word seemed.

Time goes by.  We were married a while later and the rock made the trip from her parent’s house to our new apartment.  We later received orders to Germany and the rock made the trip with us.  When we came home from Germany and moved to our new duty assignment in Warrensburg, Missouri, the rock came with us. And on and on it went.  To the home we built in Warrensburg, to the little parsonage in LaMonte, where I had my first full-time pastorate, to Cobden, Illinois where we pastored for 14 years.  Finally, it came with us to Harrisburg. It was part of the family. It was more than a pet rock it was “the rock.”

About ten years ago, around 2010, somehow the topic of the rock came up. I was sharing how endeared I was to the rock—how important it was and then it happened.  Judy told me she never liked the rock.  She told me that she wasn’t thrilled all those years ago. She only pretended to be thrilled to make me happy.  The bottom line was the rock was just a rock.  Oh, the agony.  Oh, the pain. Oh the “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  Here I’ve been hauling this rock all over the world for nothing.  I knew I should have gotten her one of those Smoky Mountain snow globes!

Well, like a pet who’s forgotten how to be potty trained, the rock was moved to the yard. It was still special to me, so it now sits on the grave of one of my favorite pets.  Somehow that just seemed appropriate and if I were to move tomorrow—yes, the rock would go.  If nothing else, it is a monument on what not to bring the girl you love from the mountains.  I’m glad that God is better at gifts than I am.  It seems—no, it more than seems, that He always gets it right.

He talks a lot about gifts in His Book.  He loads us up day after day.  Every sunrise and sunset is a gift.  Every breath is a gift.  Every fall leaf that floats to the ground full of color is a gift.  We need to look and recognize all that He gives us.  James, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, wrote that every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from our Dearest Daddy.  He just loves to shower us with His best and He does it again and again.

Well, it was no accident that I brought a souvenir rock home that year, it was no accident it was orange with white stripes, and it was no accident that it is still with us. In fact, the word souvenir is from the French, meaning “a memento, keepsake, or a token of remembrance which a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it.” How about that! Still, I guess it wasn’t the right gift for her on that day. Today though, it was the right motivation to remind us of this year, above all years, to be grateful for a God, a Heavenly Father who is oh so generous to His kids.  Why not sit down today and make a list of all the things God has provided and all the needs He met?  Take your time…enjoy the moment and when you are done…read the list to Him and say “Thank-you, Father.”  And then for all the things that are bigger than you or for the things that just look like rocks, gratefully give them all to Him because, as always, He’s got this.     Bro. Dewayne

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

Unexpected Treasures

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV)

One day, they arrived, unannounced in the mail.  I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like receiving good things in the mail.  Now, to be honest, good things don’t include everything.  Tax bills are definitely not on the good list.  But when I was a kid, we signed up to receive the “Weekly Reader.”  One day a week, during the summer, we would get this short newsletter with all kinds of cool kid’s stuff in it.  It was the highlight of my early years in the summer.  Even now, when I order something from out there in internet hyperspace, I await its arrival with great anticipation.  Of course, often, that is not via the mail but UPS or FedEx.

So, the other day, a small package arrived in the real mail.  I was not expecting anything, so I was just a little excited.  You would never guess in a hundred years what it was.  Are you ready?  It was an old pair of boy’s underwear.  What? Are you kidding?  And, no, I am not kidding.  Here are the details.  The package was from my oldest sister, Agnes.  She had recently moved and was going through stuff and tucked away she found something given to her a long, long time ago.  You see, when the Taylor girls turned sixteen, it was a tradition that they receive a “hope chest.” It was a cedar chest to put special things and other things that they might use to setup housekeeping.  Well, at least I think that is how it worked.  Anyway, Agnes is pretty sure that when she got her hope chest, Momma gave her this underwear. Now hold on…there is something coming.

She told Agnes that this underwear belonged to our Daddy when he was a boy of probably ten years old.  I’m not sure how Momma had them or why she kept them…but she did.  I can imagine when my then sixteen-year-old sister got this underwear.  I can also imagine my Momma saying, “Agnes, these belonged to your Daddy when he was a boy.  I know they don’t mean much now but later they will.”  Well, Agnes held on to them and what was in the beginning a novelty became a treasure.  Now, that underwear that my Daddy wore is right at a hundred years old.  Even as I write that I can’t believe it.  When she found them, she thought I might want them and that is how they came to be in the mail…an unannounced treasure.

There are so many things in our lives that when we first receive them, they might mean little but then something happens to charge everything. A good morning kiss becomes one of the last.  A love note left on the counter saved becomes sacred. A simple card made by your baby girl becomes the highlight of your day when it is rediscovered on the day of her wedding.  The memory of a lingering morning hug given years before carries you through a difficult day. Or a century old pair of boy’s underwear reminds you of how God blessed you with wonderful parents.  Unexpected treasures.

As we approach this season of Thanksgiving let me encourage you to look around—poke around. You might discover memories and things that magically have turned from ordinary into treasures. And then, take a moment and pause and give thanks. Take a moment and thank your Dearest Daddy in heaven for the treasure and maybe the person who made it possible. Remember the words of Paul when he wrote, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.” 2 Corinthians 4:7 (NIV) You see, not all treasure is found in gold plated boxes, sometimes it is found in common places.  Sometimes it is found in the quiet whisper from the Whisperer of heaven when He gentle reminds us, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sometimes More is Just More

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:13

I like coffee…a lot.  Coffee has been a best friend of the Taylor tribe for as long as I can remember.  I grew up with my Daddy’s words, “Dewayne, get me a cup of coffee” ringing in my ears.  One of my favorite memories of my parents is Daddy coming home about 4:00 pm and Momma having a fresh pot of coffee waiting.  She would pour up two cups and they would sit under the tree in the back yard and visit and drink coffee.  Now I am one of those coffee drinkers who likes their coffee bold and strong.  Someone said drinking weak coffee is like drinking brown dishwater.  I agree.

Now this is one area that my wife Judy and I don’t quite agree on.  She likes her coffee, well, mild.  You might say I like man coffee and she likes lady coffee and that works because I am a man and she is a lady.  The only time that doesn’t work is when I am downstairs and the only coffee there is her lady coffee.  It is something called breakfast blend and it is pretty mild. So, when I am downstairs, what am I to do?  Well, I stumbled on the answer awhile back.  Less.

That’s right…less.  You see we have one of those Keurig coffeemakers.  I know, I know…you purest coffee drinkers out there are probably gagging, but it is a good compromise for flavor and a fast cup of coffee.  One of the features on the Keurig is that you can easily adjust the amount of water in the cup.  You can set it on anywhere from four to twelve ounces.  So, if the coffee is a little on the lady side, well, I just set it to use less water.  Less water equates to stronger coffee.  Boom…problem solved.

You see, when it comes to how big the cup of coffee, sometimes more water is just more.  The coffee may still look black (which is how I drink it) but the amount of water vastly affects the flavor.  More water equals less flavor.  And that is not only true in coffee (or tea I suppose…though I am not a hot tea drinker) it is true in life.  Sometimes we just think if we can pour in more of this or more of that we will be happier.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just a lot busier.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just further into debt.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just in greater need for a larger wardrobe.

Along with more is better (and often it is not) comes the thought that, “If I only had…” and in our “culture of much”, that is often thought and often believed.  Well, take it from someone who often looked for happiness at Best Buy or Target…it just isn’t so.  The thing that can make life worth living is not found in a store…it is found in the people we love most…that matter the most.  The thing that makes life worth living is not found in a store…it is found by looking to the Heavenly Father.  The fact is, He made all things for us to enjoy…yup, it’s in the Bible.  But keep in mind that He has given us nothing to worship.  That belongs to Him and Him alone.

Remember, you can adjust your coffee flavor in your Keurig with the amount of water you choose. If you like stronger coffee…more isn’t better…it’s just more.  And when it comes to life, learn to appreciate, to love those around you.  Take the time to enjoy them.  In that case more is not only more…it is abundant. And when you need to add some richness to life, you’ll find no better source than God.  He loves you so much and wants you to experience life to the fullest.  In fact, He said, “I have come that you might have the life that is truly life.”  And to help you along the way, He will be right there beside you, ready to help, ready to assure, ready to let you know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, 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-five 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 were 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 immediately to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending; it was after hours, and 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 God 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.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

T-Minus 10 Seconds and Counting

A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15

It was summer, I was eight and bored.  When you are eight the last thing you want is to be bored. But the good part was since it was the 60’s it seemed I had no problem inventing ways to have fun and get into trouble.  Though it might be hard for some of our younger Grits readers to believe, back in those days there were only three channels on our black and white television, no internet, and no smart devices. It was a world where being creative was natural.  So, I got creative.

I lived in a world with few actual toys.  Oh sure, we had great Christmases and birthdays were nothing to sneeze at, but beyond that…it was slim pickings in the toy world.  But not to worry—all you had to do is look around and bam—-goodbye boredom.  For example, you go to the “junk drawer” and there you would find a collection of rubber bands from the daily newspaper.  String about ten of them together and you have a bug killer.  In those days, love bugs were everywhere in Florida.  They would take up roost on Daddy’s car and I would pick them off one by one.  Need something else?  Find a piece of chain and drag it through the sand—which was everywhere.  As you pulled it along, it became a train…leaving its track in the sand.  Then, if you really wanted something cool, you went back to the “junk drawer” and found the left over firecrackers from the 4th of July.  Here comes trouble.

I wanted to do something more than just blow something up so I decided to make a spacecraft.  In the early sixties that was all the rage.  The space race was well underway and the Russians were in the lead.  It was time to help NASA out.  I went to the trash and got a tin can.  I peeled off the label and then punched a hole in the end that still had a lid.  I then dug a small hole in the ground to make sure the full force of the firecracker went up and not out. I pulled the fuse up through the hole, put the can in the hole, open end down, firecracker up.  We were ready for launch.  No worry, NASA, help is on the way.

I lit the fuse and it quickly burned and allowed the firecracker to fall down inside the can where it promptly exploded.  It worked just like I expected.  A loud bang and the silver rocket soared into the sky.  While it didn’t make it into space, it did go about forty or fifty feet.  Well, as you know, what goes up…must come down…and it did.  It was then that I realized I probably should have gotten a little farther away from my Daddy’s car. As the can fell down to earth, it landed smack-dab in the middle of the hood of the car.  There was a bang and then, there was a moan.  Even from where I stood, I could see that there was going to be a dent…a very obvious and pronounced dent.

As it turned out my career with NASA was going to be short lived.  Well, I dreaded Daddy coming home and discovering my failed space attempt.  I knew there was going to be consequences but either Daddy once again extended grace (he did that a lot…probably because I got in trouble a lot) or maybe I have a short or selective memory.  Either way, the only thing I remember is I learned to launch my rockets further from the house and the car.  You see, there was nothing wrong with launching a rocket or two…the error was not more carefully figuring the details and consequences.

That was a lesson that I have never forgotten even though I may not have perfectly followed it.  Before you launch, before you act, before you speak, before you say yes or no…check the details and count the cost.  I bet Eve figured that out after her encounter with the serpent in the garden.  I bet David figured that out after his rooftop encounter with Bathsheba.  I bet Peter figured it out after his fireside chat with a young girl and his subsequent denial.  One of the writers in the Old Testament book of Proverbs said, “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” That might describe my adventure into rockets that summer day.  From my eight year old perspective, all systems were go.  I bet I would have had a different outcome if I would have checked with Momma first.  She probably would have suggested a better launching pad.

Well, no harm, no foul.  The car wore the dent for the whole time we owned it, but I did learn a good lesson—when you decide to launch—check the details and get some counsel.  As we journey today, that is still good advice.  Regardless of what comes along, think about it before you do it and there is a Heavenly Father who is so wise and is just waiting to help us navigate our world.  And when there is a misfire, a mishap…don’t worry, He will still be there and if you listen, you will probably hear those three comforting words, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Invincible

The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.” Psalm 116:6

It was the day of my Daddy’s funeral. I was 20 years old, into my second year in the Air Force and I was pretty much convinced I was invincible.  When you are a young buck, independent and all that, it seems you are going to live forever…and I guess you think that those around you will too.  That Sunday in July 1974 changed all that.  That day my Daddy slipped away from us, and we were left to say goodbye.  So, I’m sure there were trips to the funeral home, conversations with the pastor, and details to be ironed out.  And then suddenly it was the day of the funeral.

For some reason I don’t remember much about the service.  I remember walking into the church and my then girlfriend telling me not to cry.  I guess big boys don’t cry after all.  I remember a church mostly filled and I remember we sang the old hymn, “In the Garden.”  Beyond that there is a void…an emptiness…until lunch.  Down south the answer to everything is food…and that is especially true when it comes to grieving.

We had dinner at the home place and there were plenty of people and plenty of food.  I was standing out in the backyard talking with a bunch of guys.  One of the neighborhood guys I grew up with had a new Honda 750 motorcycle.  Like I said…when you are 20 you think you are invincible or maybe since I had just come from my Daddy’s funeral, I needed to prove that I thought I was.  Regardless, he asked me if I wanted to take it for a ride.

Now a Honda 750 is a lot of motorcycle…especially for 1974.  I mounted my metal steed and headed for the road.  The roads were Wheat, Firestone, 118th St., and Ricker. They formed a very large block about a mile each way. If you took four right turns, you would end up back where you started.  At first, I went easy because my experience on motorcycles was just about like it was for horses…an occasional ride…very occasional. I made the first right onto Firestone and a mile later made my second right onto 118th.  I’m not sure what prompted it, but I decided to see how fast the Honda would go. So, I opened the throttle and quickly shifted through the gears.  I was going fast…too fast.

Before I knew it I was somewhere over 100 miles an hour on a one mile stretch of road on a machine I knew little about. I looked up and coming up very quickly was the stop sign where the road ended at Ricker Road.  I needed to stop so I began to downshift and hit the brakes and somehow, someway I managed to bring me and the Honda to a stop.  My heart was just about to jump out of my chest and all of a sudden, I didn’t feel very invincible. In fact, I felt quite the opposite.  Suddenly I realized that life can be very fragile.  I got back to the house in one piece.  I’m sure I shared the story with the guys and we probably all had a good laugh but one of us wasn’t laughing on the inside.

You see that day I came face to face not with my invincibility but rather my mortality. I realized that life was precious and was something to be valued and guarded. I’m still not sure what I was trying to prove that day or maybe it was some sort of weird ritual thing that boys do when their Daddy dies.  I know this.  If my Daddy had been there that day there would have been a very serious discussion about me, motorcycles, and safety.  But, fortunately, my Dearest Daddy was there to watch over me. And even though I was not acting responsibility or even rationally, He still cared, He still rescued me. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 116:6 “The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.”

My earthly Daddy, after our talk, would have extended grace that day. My Heavenly Father extended grace too that day.  He watched over me, protected me, and gave me the opportunity to live and experience life.  Thanks, Father.  Over the decades of my life since that hot July day on the day of my Daddy’s funeral, I have experienced God’s grace over and over, again.  He has been there for me and from experience I can tell you for a fact that He does indeed, “have this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Scars and Souvenirs

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose., I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Romans 8:28

I was probably nine years old when it happened.  If you look at my hands you will see several scars.  Over here is one from an “exacto” knife when I was putting together a car model.  Over there is one from a car accident.  I was riding with my brother-in-law and the car in front of him decided to stop and he decided not to.

There is one on my right thumb—its the one that has been there for the last 55 years.  We were visiting with my Uncle Hardy down near Chiefland, Florida.  He was mom’s brother and the city manager of that small central Florida town.  They had an annual Watermelon Festival that included all the melon you could eat and an opportunity to ride on the back of the city’s garbage truck in the parade.  That was a big deal.  I didn’t get out much.

There are two things that Uncle Hardy had that impacted my life. One was a hairline that didn’t include much hair.  Thanks Uncle Hardy.  The other was a fish camp on the Suwannee River.  It was an old Florida cabin with a tin roof, the kind legends are born from, at least for a nine-year-old.  We would take boat rides, swim in the river, and eat watermelon. And that’s where “a scar was born.”

We were eating watermelon and I picked up a large butcher knife to slice off the watermelon from the rind.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with butcher knives, but I was feeling a little like “Indiana Jones” so I picked it up.  Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I began slicing the watermelon pulling the knife toward me and my little nine-year-old hand. My dad saw it and said, “Dewayne.  Be careful with the knife. Don’t pull it toward you—push it away”.

Well, when you are nine and know it all, and you’re feeling like Indiana Jones you don’t listen to your Daddy or common sense. So I kept right on slicing and then it happened.  I got a little too close to my hand and neatly sliced a half-moon cut in my thumb.  Well, so much for Indiana Jones.  There was the usual holler, a bit of tears, a daddy’s “I told you so,” a big bandage, a little embarrassment, and the makings of a scar.

It healed fine, leaving a scar and a gentle reminder.  When you are using a knife don’t pull it toward you…push it away.  Daddy was right.  There is only one scar on my hand from using a knife incorrectly. That is because every time I am tempted to do it wrong, the scar on my right thumb says don’t.  And now the scar has become a sort of souvenir. When I see it I don’t remember the pain, the tears or the embarrassment, I remember the lesson.

How about you?  Have any scars…visible or invisible?  When you see them or think about them, does your mind instantly go back to pain? Do you find yourself constantly living “it” all over again—the hurtful word, the unkind act, the feeling of being rejected or forgotten?  What if we “scar bearers” could remember the lesson instead of the pain? What if we could remember the promise instead of the pain?  Promise?  Yes, the one found in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purposes.” This is a “go to” promise for me because I have a lot of oops, bumps, bruises, and scars.  I’m learning, though, to look at all of that not for the pain they caused, but the good God brought from them.

I’m determined to learn to glean as much as I can from each day.  It’s something I picked up during 2020.  It’s ironic how 2020 means clarity and yet we had so little of it.  But we have a God who can see all things with perfect insight.  So instead of singing the blues, I’m gonna work at turning my scars into souvenirs.  And I’m gonna lay my head down tonight and rest in Him. But there’s more.  I know now my daddy was a lot wiser than I was. He had experience with knives and watermelon.  And my heavenly Father…well, He knows everything, and do you know what?  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Backyard Cars

But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6

Sometimes it seemed like a parking lot.  We have all seen it, but I experienced it.  As I have often said, there were certain benefits to growing up urban county.  We weren’t country like horses and cows, but we were country like room to run, places to play and cars in the backyard.  What?  Yup. I know we have all seen yards where there are old cars hanging around the yard.  I know each time I drive to Paducah down Route 145 in Southern Illinois I pass a house with an old Capri parked in the yard…permanently.  Over the years that I have seen it, weeds and green algae have slowly grown over it.  I’m not sure about the story behind the old Capri, but it is there year after year.

Over the years I lived at 6008 Carlton Road, we had several cars parked in our backyard.  When my granddaddy Taylor died, we inherited his old Pontiac Sedan.  I’m not sure what year it was but it was old…probably the late forties if I were to guess.  I know at least for a while it was a runner, but later on it became a sitter.  Regardless, it was a great place to play and hide in a good game of hide and seek.  This past week I was converting some old family movies to digital so we could watch them again.  There is one simply titled, Alston and Leslie Taylor and their children – 1960’s.  In the middle of the video there was my daddy, and he was working on the old Pontiac.  It was good to see him again.  It reminded me what a good man he was.

I have a feeling that there was a reason that he was working on granddaddy’s Pontiac.  You see I remember that our main driver, a 1957 Plymouth, blew an engine so it was parked under the tree in the backyard.  So, I think Daddy may have been working on the Pontiac so we would have something that would get us from here to there.  The Plymouth sat there for quite a while.  Motors were expensive and it would be a while before Mama and Daddy could scrape the money together to buy a rebuilt one.  I know they eventually did, but until then it was the old Pontiac.

And then there was the Sunbeam.  My brother Lee bought a car from somebody and it was quite unusual.  It was a British made car and it almost had that James Bond allure about it.  I was trying to think how to describe it and simply put, it was cool.  Well, it was cool until it quit running.  You see, certain cars, and especially British ones, are hard to work on and expensive to repair.  Well, somewhere along the road (no pun intended) it died.  Rather than bury it, we just parked it the backyard where it became one of the original storage sheds.  We slowly stuffed it to the gills with—stuff.

Well, eventually the Plymouth got fixed, the Pontiac got hauled off and the Sunbeam went somewhere, and our backyard looked a little less like a small junkyard and more like a garden.  Daddy had a love for growing roses and I have to admit they looked a lot better than the old cars that adorned our yard for a season.  Thinking back, I wonder what people thought about the old World War II barracks turned house with a car or two parked in the backyard.  I wonder if they, like me, like you, were tempted to judge the people that lived there?

I wonder if they ever pondered why the house needed painting most of the time or why there were old junk cars sitting in the yard?  I wonder if they thought the people who lived there were lazy or unkept.  Well, in the case of 6008 Carlton Road they would have been wrong on both cases.  My Daddy was a hard worker making sure the folks under his care had food and clothes.  He worked until his heart said no, and even then he found a job as a security guard.  Mama worked hard taking care of us.  She poured her life into our lives and made sure there was supper on the table and clean clothes to wear.  I would suppose they both were too busy pulling it all together to worry what people thought.

I know this.  When I drive south to Paducah and pass that old house with the overgrown Capri in the front yard, it won’t be thoughts of judgement that pass through my mind. Instead, I will remember two people who worked hard to make life possible for my me, and my brothers and sisters.  And then I will remember that until I have walked in someone’s shoes, I have no business looking down on anyone.  Most folks don’t wake up some morning and just decide to have their world go south.  Sometimes it just happens.  But what I do know is that Jesus, the Man a lot of us have committed to follow, wouldn’t cast a rock, rather He would lend a hand. 

One day a couple of Jesus followers were going to church and they passed by a man who couldn’t walk.  The guy was begging and that was the honorable thing to do given there was no security net for help in those days.  He looked up and the two Jesus guys looked down.  They said, “You know, we don’t have any money, but we do have an answer.  And right there, right then, they reached down and in the name of Jesus they healed the guy.  He got up, did a little dance and they all went to church together. How about that?  So, who can you help today?  What house have you driven by so many times before but perhaps today you need to stop? I know in a world of risks, that can be hard but hey, I know Someone who will help make it happen.  His name is Jesus and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne