Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

Worth Every Mile

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was crazy but worth every mile.  For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened.  While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know for us that was a good time.  Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.

I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service.  To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.

Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand.  We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic.  That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song.  It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.

There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills.  That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause.  Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average.  As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.

By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am.  1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour.  I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now.  Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning?  Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.

Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am.  We were tired.  We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter.  We were there.  We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity.  There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe.  Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all.  Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”

Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day.  The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was.  We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot.  And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic.  Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore.  And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.

While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too.  Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks.  Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As always, he was spot on.  Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do.  And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, thankful, Trials

Diver “Whatever-it-is-itis”

And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Diver what? It was a long time ago but for some reason it is still fresh in my mind.  Journey back with me to 2002…twenty years ago.  One day I started feeling pretty bad. I ended up going to the doctor and first he did the normal doctor stuff and then he began to poke and to prod and that is when the fun began.  He pressed down on my side, and I just about came off the table.

Well, he said, “Preacher, I think you have diverticulitis.” I didn’t have a clue what diver ”whatever-it-is-itis” was but I knew I didn’t feel good. It turns out that diverticulitis is an infection of the colon, and it can be potentially dangerous. Anyway, he sent me over to the hospital for some more tests, some pain meds and a really strong dose of antibiotics.

For the first few days I was pretty out of it but finally I turned a corner and began to feel a little better. Because of how diverticulitis works, I couldn’t have anything to eat—and very little to drink–for several days.  Now those of you who regularly read Grits know that food and I are best friends so for me to go several hours…much less days…without eating is something strange indeed.  Finally, one morning, the nurse came in and asked if I would like some WATER.  Oh, was I grateful.  “Yes, yes,” said the thirsty preacher.

At lunch they brought me a Popsicle and some chicken broth. Oh, was I grateful.  “Thank you so very much,” said the hungry preacher.  At supper they brought me some more chicken broth and another Popsicle.  “Thanks,” said the now feeling better and still hungry preacher.  At breakfast they brought me more broth and another Popsicle.  “Looks just like supper to me,” said the very hungry and less grateful preacher.  Well on and on it went for a few more meal times until finally they brought me REAL FOOD.  Broiled chicken, mashed potatoes, and green beans have never tasted so good.

The moral of the story is obvious and simple.  You see, the better I felt and the more I drank the broth and ate the popsicles, the more dissatisfied and ungrateful I became.  It was surprising how quickly I forgot the days when I had nothing.  And that is when I learned an important lesson. You see, when you become dissatisfied with what you’ve got just remember a day when you had less. It’s sure to mash your “I’m grateful” button.

One of things that God is working on in my life is this grateful thing.  It seems He keeps bringing to my attention all that I have that I should be thankful for.  I’m realizing it is a very long list.  Through the years God has sent special blessings and special people to me over and over again.  The special blessings were love notes sent by my Dearest Daddy in heaven.  The special people were encouragers to walk with me along the journey. Together they remind me, they prod me to be thankful.

As you journey, as I journey, and we find ourselves tending to be a little on the ungrateful side…when we are no longer satisfied with chicken broth and Popsicles…maybe we can and should remember when we had less. Paul, who spent more time in jail for doing Jesus stuff than anyone else, wrote, “And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He would later write how he learned to be content no matter what and most of that he wrote while sitting in a Roman prison. How about that?

So, let’s be honest.  Chicken broth and Popsicles still don’t make my top five list—or top fifty for that matter.  But I can remember the time when I thought they were better than fried chicken and a banana split.  It is all about perspective.  This being grateful thing is something most of us will wrestle with as long as we are here on this earth.  We probably should just hang a sign out that says, “Construction Zone Ahead.” Just remember, be grateful because something is always better than nothing.  And if you listen carefully, you will hear the Whisperer whispering, “Popsicles anyone?” And he will smile and whisper, don’t worry…“I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, wisdom

Thanks-Giving Living

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Everything seemed bigger then.  I liked being a kid.  I know there were times I didn’t, but overall things were pretty cool.  For one thing, there were few responsibilities.  There was always someone bigger and more important than me to handle things.  I didn’t worry about where the food came from, who was going to pay the electric bill or what would happen if the wrong person got elected and lived in something called the White House.  My house happened to be white, so my world centered around that white house. Of course, there were only three channels to tell me about the world outside my small world so, yeah, l liked being a kid.

When I was a kid, the holidays were just a big thing and the two at the top of the list were Thanksgiving and Christmas. These were the mammoths of all holidays.  Thanksgiving, of course, came first and was like the kickoff for the Christmas season. Thanksgiving meant that it was ok to start doing Christmas stuff.  Now days that has been assigned to the Fourth of July. Smile.  But anyway, these two special days shared two things that made them special.  They were all about family and they were all about food. Family and food.  They were big then and they are big now.

Of course, big was relative…not relative like my grandmother or my Uncle Hardy…but relative in the sense of perspective.  You see, as a kid, everything was bigger.  A while back I went back to where I was raised. The house, though slightly remodeled, was still there and about the same.  But when I saw it that day, I remember thinking how small it seemed.  I mean it was never big, but it certainly seemed bigger.  The difference wasn’t the house but how I saw it.  Enter Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was so exciting because it meant that anyone who was related to the Taylor tribe was going to be somewhere together.  Most often it was home…the white house on the corner of Carlton and Wheat. It was a big deal because we had quite a big tribe.  Momma and Daddy had eight kids and they probably would have had more but I think they finally figured out what was causing it.  And everyone came home.

And then…there was the food.  Momma would cook the biggest turkey we could find…usually right around twenty-five pounds.  There would be dressing, plain and oyster, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, ambrosia, and a bunch of other stuff.  There would be several kinds of pies including the infamous “minced meat pie.”  Best I could tell that was a pie for the adults because I think it really had meat and only an adult could like that.  Then after the vast spread was spread, we would all gather around the kitchen (we wouldn’t fit around the table) and someone would pray…usually my oldest brother because he was a lay preacher.  And then…we would eat…a lot.

From my kid perspective it was good, and it was fun.  I probably didn’t think much about what giving thanks was all about.  I mean, my big brother talked about being thankful when he was talking to God in the prayer, but really, I probably didn’t get the whole thanksgiving thing…then.  But now, well, I certainly understand it more.  As I grew up and some of that responsibility that my parents bore fell on me, I began to understand.  When I started to realize that things I took for granted didn’t just happen, that they took hard work and a lot of love, well, I started feeling grateful.  The more I understood, the more I appreciated all that my Momma and Daddy did for me as a kid.  They worried so I didn’t have to. They provided so I could have food to eat, a place to sleep, clothes to wear and a life that was…fun.

So, this week, I’m going to remember and be thankful.  I’m going to do my best not to grumble about what I don’t have and choose to be grateful for what I do. Somewhere this week I will play the role of my big brother and pray, and I will thank God for all the blessings He has given to me and my family.  This week I will celebrate that there is food to eat and family to enjoy…just like when I was a kid.  God is good…always has been, always will be.  Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament Bible said, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I think he was telling us to be sure and celebrate Thanksgiving, not one day, but every day.  Oh, and when you are thanking God for being God be sure and thank Him because, each day and every day, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Ordinary Things

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was one strange bouquet of emotions.  It was the end of good Sunday.  We had a great day at church and after a good nap we headed down to Paducah to return a lawn mower.  We had ordered the mower online and when it arrived it was damaged…of course.  Well, that meant borrowing something big enough to haul it back to the store. About that time our Paducah tribe came to the rescue with their SUV.  They hauled it there and we drove down to finish the return and of course see the family.

We headed to the store that we had ordered it from, returned it, and then celebrated with a trip to Cold Stone.  It was awesome and of course, Papa had to taste the flavors the three grandsons had ordered…as well my daughter’s. After all the eating and sampling, we headed on back to Harrisburg.  Judy, my wife, was a little hungry so I told her we would whip in and buy some diesel and then swing into McDonald’s.  It was a plan.  When we got back in town, I pulled into the station and began to fill up the Jetta.  It was just about then that things went…south.

I decided to clean the windshield since we were there and there must have been something in the water because it was a mess.  Usually, they use plain water but there was nothing plain about this stuff.  While I was trying to get that off the windshield, a man at the other side of pump started talking to me.  Well, between his not too clear speech and my not too good hearing, there was a lot of nodding and agreeing to things that I probably didn’t agree with.  Well, honestly after a while, it was time to draw this conversation to a close.  So, with a bit of frustration about the stuff on the windshield and the too long conversation with my friend, I finally said, “See you later.”

I walked back to the driver’s side, opened the door, cranked the engine, and proceeded to drive off.  About 1.5 seconds after the car started moving there was a very discomforting noise from the back of the car.  I can’t describe it, but I knew exactly what had happened.  I had totally forgotten the nozzle was still in the car and as I drove off…it didn’t come with me.  Well, I immediately stopped and then circled back around not knowing what to expect. Had the nozzle ripped part of the car off? Was fuel spilling on the ground? Had the fuel hose been torn from the pump?  It was not a good moment and there were plenty of emotions rolling around in my mind.

The short list included being frustrated that the guy had distracted me, anger at myself for forgetting that the nozzle was still attached to the car, and a big dose of embarrassment. Oh, and there was one more big emotion…gratitude. It was like a bouquet of weeds and a rose. You see, amazingly, while the hose was laying on the ground, it was not spewing fuel nor was it broken.  Also, the car really had no damage to speak of.  There were no dents, no dings, and not even a scratch.  One small part of the filler thing was pulled loose but that really wasn’t important.  Amazing.

First, I know I probably need to turn in my “man card” for having done this.  If I have said it once, I have said it twenty-five times, “I can’t believe I did that.”  And honestly, it is all on me.  My long-winded friend was not to blame, and I had no right to be frustrated about the windshield either.  Nope…it was my fault.  But here is the part I love.  This is the part that forced me to write this story when I would have much more rather kept it off the page.  What forced me to write was my overwhelming sense of gratitude for my Dearest Daddy watching out for His child.  I mean this could have been nasty, but He had it all under control. I can even say “thank-you” for this because I would have missed the blessing of His kindness if it hadn’t had happened.

Well, like the song says, “He is a good, good Father.”  Hans Christian Andersen said, “The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.”  He is so right.  Our world is filled with love notes from a God that loves His creation dearly.  How incredible is that? Paul wrote in the New Testament part of the Bible, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So, whatever we do, whatever happens, believe He is in control and be sure and give Him thanks.  I know more than ever that whatever it is, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne