Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Writing Every Day

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Numbers 90:12

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Barefoot

The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:19

Ok…it just hurt. I grew up down South and there and especially then things were just a bit different.  Back in those days before Nintendo and Game Boys, we played…I mean we just played.  Even though we had television, and yes, it was black and white,  it was rarely on…especially during the day.  When school was over for the day, we would go outside and run the neighborhood and…the woods.

We lived in a small country neighborhood that was surrounded by brushy woods.  We played army, built forts, and played every game you could imagine.  We had a large Chinaberry tree in our backyard, and we would load our pockets with the small berries and then chase one another trying our best to “ping” someone with the berries. As you can imagine we ran…a lot. And the best running shoes then were no shoes at all.  We ran and played barefoot most of the time.  There were times of regret, like when we would stub our toe on a big old pine root, but most of the time we did just fine.  Of course, all that “barefoot-ness” toughened our feet up till the soles were leather tough.

Well, things change, and we all grew up and started wearing shoes.  With the shoes, we lost our toughness but not our love to occasionally go barefoot.  There’s still just something about the feel of grass and soft sand on the bottom of your foot.  Yup…what good memories…that is until I stepped on a stupid rock. It all started when I went outside early in the morning, as in the sun was still yawning, to have a cup of coffee with Judy.  Of course, I wasn’t wearing shoes.  We have a paved driveway and patio so no deal…right? Not so fast.

I walked out to the patio, visited awhile, and then decided it was time to head back into the house to get ready for the day.  Our patio is a foot or so higher than our driveway and we have a small step there to make things easier.  So, I stepped down onto the step and then on down to the driveway.  Not thinking, nor thinking to look, right where I stepped was a nice, small rock.  Now this wasn’t the smooth stone kind of rock but the kind that you find in an unpaved alley.  Anyway, I stepped, and stepped hard and landed right on that stinking rock.  Ouch.

As things would happen, it was in the middle of my heel, and it just hurt.  I muttered something about stupid rocks, picked the rock up and chucked it back in the alley where it belonged.  It really was a “no harm, no foul” deal.  I mean, it wasn’t like it hurt all day and it wasn’t like I had to go to the doctor, but for those few moments…it just hurt and for those few moments…I was mad at the rock. Mad.At.The.Rock.

Wait…later I decided there was something wrong with that.  I am sure that rock didn’t wake up that morning (do rocks wakeup?) and decide to be in the exact wrong spot.  In fact, I am sure the rock had nothing to do with it at all. I am sure that I am the one who chose not to wear shoes that morning, who didn’t look to see if there was a rock in the way, and who wasted my emotional energy by getting mad at a rock.  It sounds like this one is on me.

The bottom line is when you do life, you will occasionally step on a rock and it may cause some pain.  But like the Disney song says, maybe we should just, “let it go.” The Bible gives us some even greater counsel.  It says that we are to remember that God is our strength, and we should ask Him to guide our feet as sure as a mountain deer.  In other words…to help us watch where we step…whether it is off our patio or into a questionable decision.

Well, I know, and you know it wasn’t the rock’s fault that day and really, in the scope of things, it wasn’t mine either. It was just one of those things.  Oh, and this morning, I went out barefoot again but before I stepped off the patio, I looked and that means, I may have learned and that is always valuable.  So be sure and look before you step and remember, even if things don’t go exactly like you plan today…He’s still got this. Bro. Dewayne

Oh wait…I thought that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t.  So, the same day I wrote this, at lunch I went home to eat and kicked my shoes off.  As I was walking across the kitchen floor, I stepped on a…get ready…rock.  Yup, right there in the kitchen.  I guess you just never know.

Posted in Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Mother's Day, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Remembering Momma

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her: Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all!” Proverbs 31:28-29

Well, it’s time. Enter Mother’s Day…a day to celebrate our mothers, our wives and other ladies who have poured their life into our lives, but time can make that harder.  Let me explain. You see, time can be a bane and a blessing. It is difficult to live with but we sure can’t live without it and as we get older, it can begin to fuzz the brain and our memories. Things that at one time were vivid and clear become a midst and sometimes disappear into the fog.

That seems to be true of so many of my childhood memories—my Momma memories. Things that I am sure were so valuable, so definitive at the time, are now simply not there. I am sure that is the case with my memories of my parents as a child. When that happens, I simply fill in the gaps with hints and clues from the things I do remember. As the pieces come together, it quickly becomes obvious that my Momma was one of my anchors and a huge blessing in my life.

As I scan the landscape of my childhood, as I piece the pieces together, I realize that I had a really good childhood, and it was largely because of my parents and in particular, my mother. As the baby of eight, by the time they got to me, two things were obvious: they had it down to a science, and I was pretty spoiled.

Because of our finances, we didn’t get everything we wanted (not by a long shot), but Christmas, birthdays, and usually even ordinary days were special. Momma was often the one who made that happen. She was a stay-at-home, hold the fort down, mom and was always there when I needed her. Perhaps you have heard of a Swiss Army knife.  It is one crazy invention where a simple pocketknife becomes an all-purpose, whatever you need tool. And that describes Momma. Whatever the occasion she was there for us…for me. Well, truth be known, while she didn’t wear a habit like Mother Teresa or a nurse’s uniform like Florence Nightingale or banish a sword like Joan of Arc, she was that and more in my eyes.

I wonder how many times was I sick, and she became Doctor Momma?  On so many occasions I can remember her pulling me into her lap and holding me. On one particular occasion when I was over five and under ten, I was very sick— fever, nausea, and a young body that felt like it had been beaten.  I know now it was probably the flu and probably contagious and yet there she was in our old rocking chair, at two in the morning, cradling me and holding me.  That was Momma.

Sometimes Momma put on her Leonardo da Vinci hat and showed a designer flare. I can remember as a teenager I had a rather new pair of jeans—ordinary to some—valuable to me. I was horseback riding one day, and the horse cut a corner too sharply and ran me into a pole, ripping my jeans right above the knee. Bummer. My Momma simply cut the legs off the jeans where they were torn, put in some bright red cloth, and sewed them back together. There you go…good as new, and since it was the 70’s, it made a statement. I had a one-of-a-kind pair of jeans.

Two or three times a day Momma always put on her chef’s hat. A couple of years ago I made a thoughtless and inaccurate comment about Momma’s cooking not being “the best in the world.” Can someone say, “Dumb?”  Can someone say, “Really?” No, Momma was a great cook and my waistline still proves it.  She had the amazing ability to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. To me, her chicken and dumplings and blackberry dumplings were both legendary.  Oh, and did I mention her fried corn beef hash?  No, Chef Momma was amazing…and we loved her for it.

Yup, my Momma was amazing and the longer I live the more I realize just how blessed I was to have her.  It has been said that men often marry women like their mothers.  Well, that at least helps to explain the amazing wife that God has given me.  In so many ways she too is that wife, that mother, that grandmother that so many wish they had.  I don’t have to wish…Judy is my wish come true. Someone once said that a person who has one good friend in their life is blessed.  Well, without going any further than my home I know I have had two—Momma and my precious wife Judy.  Thank You, Lord…a bunch.

Remember, there is no such thing as perfect Momma’s but a lot of us have been blessed with great ones. On this Mother’s Day, if Momma is still around, be sure and let her know how much you appreciate her.  And if she isn’t…well, be sure and thank the Lord.  And one more thought…be sure and thank your wife, for all she has done. Guys, trust me, we would be lost without them.  Oh, and do remember this, there is a God who loves you more than your Momma ever could or did.  It’s good to know that no matter what…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Stinky Football & Me

Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25b

She told me what I didn’t know.  If you read Grits even occasionally you know that I was born special…the baby of eight.  After seven tries Momma and Daddy got it right.  Yes, it is and was a burden to bear but someone had to do it.  I was so special my brothers and sisters called me “Precious” though I’m not sure it was a term of endearment or endangerment.  Of course, all of that is written in jest but the bottom line is…I was the baby of the family and that made me special.

Even us special people don’t always get it right.  In fact, truth be known, we might get it wrong more often than the rest.  Sometimes that is a result of being just a little spoiled and sometimes it is just not knowing and one night, I found that out.  My oldest brother Reggie and his wife Sonia played a big part in my growing up.  Reggie is like sixteen years my senior and of course Sonia almost as many.  In my growing up years they were one of the main reasons I managed to stay in church.  They were regular attenders and would swing by the house and make sure I had a ride to church.

Because church was such a big part of my social world, I went all the time.  All.The.Time.  We had church three times a week and I was there.  My favorite time to go to church, though, was Wednesday nights.  We had this cool group of guys, led by two really cool older guys, and we had a great time learning about Jesus and stuff.  But it was what happened after the Jesus time that topped it all—football.  Our church had a large field out back and we would get together and play every Wednesday night after our class.  And we played real football too…tackle.

Of course, this was North Florida and most times that meant it was hot so by the time we were done we were hot, sweaty, and well, stinky.  The only problem was I didn’t have a clue.  You see no one in the Taylor tribe had ever told me about the wonders of deodorant…Daddy didn’t, Momma didn’t, my sisters didn’t. So often, I was a stinky mess.  It was just about then that my sister-in-law Sonia came to the rescue.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  We were done at church, we had played football and I was, well, you know.

Reggie and Sonia had a two door Pontiac Lemans. That night Sonia was holding the door open and the seat back so I could crawl into the backseat and that is when it happened.  When she got into the car and closed the door, she said, “Dewayne, has anyone ever told you about deodorant?” Well, I replied truthfully and replied, “No ma’am.” And, without explanation, she simply said, “Well, honey (everyone was “honey”), you need to wear some.”

Well, shoot that thing, no one ever told me about that.  I knew about taking a bath and I probably knew about slapping on some smell good stuff, but I sure didn’t know I stunk and that there was something to help with that. Well, that changed everything.  I guess I went home and found some deodorant and started wearing it.  It probably made me just a little more popular with my friends…especially the girls.  If she hadn’t told me the truth, I would probably be a single hermit living somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains or something.

You see, Sonia told me something I needed to know…and I’m glad she did.  It probably wasn’t easy…though she was always telling Reggie how to drive. Smile. But since she knew the truth would set me free from a stinky situation…she cared enough to speak up. So, do you know someone that needs to hear a truth…even if it is hard?  And, more importantly, are you willing to share that truth?

All of us have someone in our world that needs this but there is one thing that is key.  In order to earn the right to share truth we need to have a relationship, a trust, with the person.  Sonia’s hard truth did not offend me because I knew she loved me.  Her truth wasn’t to embarrass, but to help and that made all the difference in the world. That’s what Paul, the New Testament writer meant when he said, “Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.” Sincere truth speaking isn’t judgmental…it is helpful.

If you know someone who needs a little truth, think about it and then carefully and tactfully share with them.  That is no guarantee that it will go well but at least you will know that you did your part. And if it does go wrong and you end up in bit of a storm, don’t worry, don’t be discouraged because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Patrol Boy

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

It was a dream come true.  Growing up when I did was a blast.  I was born in 1954 (and yes, that was a long time ago) and things were just different.  Life was slower, people mattered more, things mattered less, and respect was a big deal.  I was raised to call people older than me, sir and ma’am.  It’s kinda humorous, but now I am the senior adult and I still call everybody and their brother, “sir.”  It was just ingrained in me from my earliest memories.

Back in those days, when you were in the sixth grade you were the king of the mountain.  You see in Florida in the early sixties elementary school went from first thru sixth grade.  There was no kindergarten.  Part of being the king of the mountain was the prospect of being selected to be a “patrol boy.”  Now, the first thing you need to know is the term “patrol boy” was a term of respect.  Today I think they still have crossing guards but back then…patrol boys were the state police of the day.  They had a belt that went around their waist and over their shoulder and of course, the flag.  It was a two-piece design that was about five foot long when put together.  Oh, I almost forgot.  They had a safety helmet too.  They definitely looked the part.

At the end of each school day, these brave traffic warriors would be dismissed from class a little early to go and man their assigned post. They would put on their belt and helmet, grab their flag, and head out for duty.  Now this was the real deal.  A teacher or aide didn’t accompany them.  The lives of their peers were in their hands—and they were granted authority to stop traffic.  Again, it was an honor and a dream to get that belt, helmet, and flag.  The selection process was done at the end of the school year of our fifth grade.  I’m not sure what the criteria was, but I do know not everyone got selected.

Ok, let’s be honest.  I wanted…I really wanted to be a patrol boy.  It was like I was born for it.  It was my destiny.  I could tell you that I wanted to help save lives.  I could tell you that the safety of every kid who crossed at my post was what drove me but that wouldn’t be true.  No, I’m afraid it wasn’t quite that noble.  I’m afraid it had nothing to do with safety…it had to do with…the belt, the helmet, and the flag.  Now don’t laugh, it was a big deal. The uniform has led a lot of guys to sign up for the Marines.  I was no different.  I wanted people to look at me and say, “There goes a patrol boy.  Leader of peers and a hero to boot.”

Well, it happened.  I was selected and honestly, it was just about everything I thought it was going to be—at least through my eyes.  No one ever called me a hero, nor did I outright save anyone’s life, but there was something about the way it made me…feel. Looking back, I think there is a word for it…pride.  You know there is a good pride…the kind that lets you know you did your best.  There is also the kind that says, “I’’m a patrol boy and you’re not.”  It’s closely related to the kind that says, “I have power and you don’t. You have to listen to me…obey me.”  Bummer.

As far as I know, at least from the outside, I did a pretty good job.  I received and proudly wore my little pin, which I got to keep at the end of the year that marked my service.  No one got ran over on my watch and I think I only got in trouble once.  That happened when one of my fellow patrol boys, a friend no less, made me mad and I whacked him with my flag.  It certainly wasn’t very hero like and trust me it wasn’t as pretty.  Something on the inside—that should have stayed on the inside—oozed out. I realize now that all of us have a tendency to play that game—pretty good on the outside and pretty dingy on the inside.  Someone once said you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.

There should be another saying that says, “You can’t fool God any of the time.”  You see, God’s got this “vision thing” that allows Him to see right past the skin and right into our heart.  He sees our real thoughts, our real motives, our real selves.  It’s been kind of a “go to” verse for me recently but here’s what it says, “The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at Eliab’s appearance or stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Wow…that is one scary thought.  God sees what matters.  We need to remember that.

Well, I enjoyed my year as a patrol boy.  The next year I went to junior high and went from the top of the heap to the bottom.  In fact, now that I think about there were a couple of guys who did their best to make junior high hard for me.  Today we call it bullying.  I wonder if it was payback for some misused authority.  Hmmmm.  What goes around…comes around.  Anyway, I’m glad I don’t have just a “patrol boy” watching over me.  Nope, I have the King of Kings and that’s pretty awesome!  I don’t have a thing to worry about because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Ride a Cock Horse

Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

I was chosen to ride a horse.  When I was in the third grade, our school was going to put on a musical.  Back in those days, being a part of something like a school musical was cool.  Today, in most circumstances, mention a musical to most boys and all you can see is the dust from their feet as they run away.  But this was a different time and being chosen wasn’t only cool…it was an honor.

I think the show was a variety thing and two other boys and myself were going to sing a song about riding a “cock horse” to “Banbury Cross” to “see a fine lady” who rode a white horse. She wore rings on her fingers and bells on her toes and she had music wherever she went. Well, anyway it was something like that. Our costume consisted of the three of us wearing white shirts with white pants.  They made us a hat like the one’s the soldiers wore in “The Nutcracker” and a cardboard white horse that we slipped over our heads and around our waists, so it appeared we were riding it. 

An important part of the costume were the shoes.  According to the director, we were to wear white buckskin shoes…and that was the problem.  I had a white shirt, and a pair of white pants were easy enough to come by but buckskin white shoes?  No way.  It is safe to say that no one who lived at 6008 Carlton Road ever owned or wore white buckskin shoes.  I also think it is safe to say they were out of our price range.  The best Momma and Daddy could do was a pair of white canvas tennis shoes.  I was mortified.  I knew, and I was right, that the other two boys would have on white buckskin shoes, and I would be the only one who didn’t and I was embarrassed.

As always, I should have known that Momma and Daddy had done the best they could do and that should have been enough but from my small world perspective it wasn’t. I’m sure there was a fair amount of pouting and applying an unfair guilt trip on my parents.  I’m sure they felt bad, and I am sure it was my fault.  The truth is…I was being very selfish.  Something like selfishness is easy to see in the rearview mirror when enough time and distance has passed.  And I’m sure that was not the only instance.

Well, the show must go on…and it did and guess what?  Not one person said anything about my white canvas tennis shoes.  Nope…we sang and danced our little cock horses across the stage and everyone clapped.  Of course, looking back, I shouldn’t have worried about the shoes but rather about the whole idea of prancing around a stage with a cardboard horse around my waist. Perhaps part of the humor in all of this is I still remember a lot of the words and the tune to my “Cock Horse” song.

I’m not sure when but somewhere along the journey I realized that what I thought was a big deal was not.  And, trust me, that was not the only time.  I’ve learned that we humans tend to made mountains out of molehills. And I’ve also learned that too often it revolves around relationships.  Too often relationships with family and friends are scarred or shattered over the smallest of things.  And, sadly and ironically, sometimes people don’t even remember what the deal was.  Walls were built and no one knows why, and no one has the courage to tear them down.

Got any walls in your life?  Still mad about something as silly as buckskin shoes?  If so, why not let today be the day when the walls come down?  Why not let today be the day when that relationship is restored?  Why not be the one to take the first “whack at the wall?”  As a pastor, I do a lot of funerals and sadly, there are often walls in the families and just like that…it is too late to fix it.

Peter, one of the guys that followed Jesus, wrote in the Bible, “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” He knew that love makes a great sledgehammer for tearing down walls.  God knew that too because He loved us even though we weren’t close to being worthy.  It takes courage to take the first whack.  God willingly took the first swing to bring us home and it involved a Roman cross and His Son.  Need a little help swinging that hammer?  Not a problem…just ask because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

The Gap

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all You have done; I reflect on the work of Your hands.” Psalms 143:5

I’m not sure why…but there’s a gap. When I started school in Jacksonville, Florida there was no kindergarten.  It was like one day you were at home and the then you weren’t.  My first four grades of elementary school were at Wesconnect Elementary School and the last two were at a brand-new school—Jacksonville Heights Elementary School. Unlike Wesconnect that required a bus ride, the new school was only several blocks down the road from my house.  

Wesconnect was an old…real old.  It was all brick with no air conditioning. It was hot. That is one reason why we didn’t start school till after Labor Day.  I remember it having large paned windows, oak floors and tall ceilings.  Hundreds of footsteps would echo through the halls. And, to a little kid like me, it was big—like huge.  It was at Wesconnect, that I met and fell in love for the first time.  She was an older than me—my first-grade teacher—Mrs. Jones.  And, like the song from the seventies says, “we had a thing going on” or at least I did.  She was pretty (at least from my seven-year-old perspective) and she was pretty nice.  I became her number one eraser cleaner.  But soon, it was time to move on.  So, I passed first grade and it was so long Mrs. Jones.

By second grade I was a veteran.  A lot of the insecurities were gone and I met Mrs. Webb.  She, like Mrs. Jones, was a kind teacher.  I think, though I am not sure, that my sister and I had our tonsils out about then and she had all the kids write me get well cards.  I can still remember how special it was to receive that big envelope from my classmates. Thank-you, Mrs. Webb.  Third grade meant yet another teacher…this time Mrs. Wilson.  Now I don’t mean this in a mean way but she kinda reminded me of one of the witches from “The Wizard of Oz.”  She was an older lady, and wore her hair in a tight bun and was quite stern.  I didn’t clean Mrs. Wilson’s erasers.  But looking back, she was a good teacher and she helped us learn and that is what mattered.  I managed to pass again, so soon it was so long Mrs. Wilson.

Fifth grade meant a new school (with air conditioning—smile) and yet another new teacher and her name was, get ready for it, Mrs. Slappy.  She was rather short, had bright red hair and was rather snappy.  Today I think I would use the word, “feisty.”  As I remember her class, it was fun and I had a new responsibility.  She selected me (and a couple of others) to be trained to run the film strip projector and the movie projector.  It was a big deal.  When we were going to see a film strip or movie in class, one of us would go down and check out the equipment, set it up and operate it.  Wow…what responsibility and to think, she trusted me.  That was a big deal. Thank you, Mrs. Slappy.

My final year in elementary school, sixth grade, was a landmark year.  I had my first male teacher, Mr. Perry and was selected to be a “patrol boy.”  Mr. Perry was, as you can imagine, a little different from Mrs. Jones in First grade but I remember him being imposing but fair.  He was a “rules” guy but as long as you followed the rules, you did ok.  That served me well then and really for the rest of my life.  I know it started at home but Mr. Perry reenforced it…a lesson well learned. Well, there you go my parade of teachers. The end. Thanks for reading.

Well, not quite.  You see there was a reason I walked you through all of that.  Did you notice something? Well, if you noticed that there is a gap…you are right.  You see, for some reason, and who knows why, there is a total gap for the fourth grade.  I have absolutely no memories of my teacher, classmates, or surroundings.  I know it was Wesconnect but beyond that…zero…and that intrigues me.  I don’t know or believe it was anything bad…there is just a gap. In fact, it means that there was probably a really good teacher who taught me, good friends that I met and played with and a whole year of great memories that, for some reason, I have forgotten. I.Have.Forgotten.

And that made me think.  How many other incredibly good things have I forgotten?  It seems we have no problem remembering all the bad stuff but sometimes we tend to sometimes forget the good stuff, the great stuff that comes our way.  I love writing about my days as a kid but I wonder how many good stories I could write if I remembered all the other adventures that came my way.  How many more adventurous things came my way that slipped away.  Hmmm.

Remembering the good always feeds gratitude and dwelling on the bad tends to feed the opposite. And, trying to filling unexplained gaps, well, can do the same.  Why don’t we celebrate the good, let the hard stuff stay in the rearview mirror and those gaps…just let them be.  I like what the writer of Psalms 145:3 said, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all you have done; I reflect on the work of your hands.”  In other words, whether it was good, whether it was difficult or whether there is a gap, we know and celebrate one constant, “He’s got that.”  Bro. Dewayne

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, friends, gratitude, life, priorities, Southern born, thankful

Toys-R-Me

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11

You just had to look around.  When I was growing up, somewhere and sometime between January and December, toys from my birthday and Christmas, slowly disappeared. I know some kids take extremely good care of the toys.  I had a friend once who took me down in his parent’s basement and there on the shelves were toys from when he was a small boy…all in perfect condition. They looked new though they were fifty years old.  Well, my toys just didn’t fair that well.  I don’t think I was overly harsh with them, but I was adventurous, and I did enjoy taking things apart.

Then the question becomes, “What do you do when the toys from the store are scarcer than hen’s teeth?  The answer is, “you get creative.”  I am thinking how many times I wandered over to one of the building sites across the street from my house and “borrowed” a couple of the surveyor sticks they had put out.  The shorter wedge cut ones made great rubber band guns and the thinner, taller ones made awesome “dirt clod” launchers.  The technique was simple…you simply stuck the end of the stick in the dirt and gave it a swift kick.  Instantly, a dirt clod was on its way to either a target or the kid down the street.  Boy, was that fun though looking back I’m sure the surveyor guys didn’t appreciate their sticks disappearing.

Sometimes, a new toy was just laying around.  It was the age of hula hoops and they made great “ant bombers.”  All you had to do was check and make sure your sister wasn’t watching, find a way to cut the hula hoop in half, get some matches and you were all set.  Then you would light the one end of the hula hoop which would begin to burn and melt.  As the plastic melted, it dripped to the ground sizzling and burning…the perfect red ant bomber.  I must confess a lot of good ants lost their lives that way but don’t worry.  You see sometimes they got me with their stingers before I got them with my firebombs.  Boy, that fun too.

Then, of course, you could make your very own train.  There was always a length of chain laying around the yard and there was always plenty of good, ole Florida sand.  All you had to do was drag that chain behind you and as you did the sand got pushed aside and the chain left a track in the sand. Round and round and up and down we would go leaving tracks everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times and how many hours we played making “train tracks.”

If all else failed, you could sneak into “Daddy’s tool shed.” It was attached to the house and honestly it was more of a junk shed than a tool shed but there was cool stuff laying around everywhere.  I remember Daddy had a bunch of one-pound cans of either freon or something like that.  It attached to a contraption that had a trigger.  It was made to spray liquids from a small glass container that was attached.  I discovered if you mashed that trigger the freon coming out would instantly make frost—freezing whatever it landed on.  It was amazing.  So, I found out that if you got tired of “fire-bombing” the ants, you could freeze them.  Now, don’t call the animal rights people…it was just part of growing up.

I could keep going but you can probably get the idea that there was plenty to do around the old homestead…and it really was…fun.  Back in those days television, especially during the day or early afternoon, consisted of soap operas or game shows…neither of which was exciting for a young boy.  So, I could learn to like them…not…or get creative.  I could have sat around and complained because I didn’t have what other kids had…or get creative.  Well, I chose to get creative…and I am glad I did.  Some of my best memories were out in the backyard just figuring out how to have a little fun.

So, how about you?  Do you find yourself discontented and bored with life?  Do you find yourself bemoaning what others have and what you don’t?  Can I suggest that you look “in your backyard” and see what might be there?  It might be an evening drive with the family.  It might be sitting under the tree having some tea or coffee just sittin’ and listenin’. It might be playing with the kids or waving at the cars going by.  Whatever, you might just find some unexpected pleasure…you might find a little peace…you might find a little contentment.  My friend Paul from the New Testament said he had learned to be content wherever and whatever he was doing.  I think that is something all of us need to learn.  Need a little help?  I know I do.  That’s when my Dearest Daddy often shows up just to let me know that He loves me and that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, gratitude, Halloween, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Days Gone By…or Not?

“[He] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44b

In those days it was one of my favorite holidays.  Things change…we all get that but back in the day, Halloween was fun, it was candy profitable and we loved it.  There were church parties where we all dressed up in costumes.  And those costumes weren’t bought in a store…they were made from wherever was handy.  We would have hotdogs and chips and there was always a contest for the best costume.  Come trick or treat night we would again don our costumes. Mine was invariably a hobo—I just went to dad’s closet and boom—I was ready to go.

One of my favorite things was going to Momma’s cedar chest.  It was a magic place where so many cool things were stored.  It was filled with once-a-year delights and special treasures.  One time my daddy had to make a trip of Ecuador for work.  He was a mechanic at the Navy base and one of their planes broke down down in South America. He was selected to make the trip and trust me—it was the trip of a lifetime for him.  He bought everyone souvenirs and mine was a poncho and a short bullwhip.  They were stored in the cedar chest for safe keeping.

But there was something else in the cedar chest—our trick or treat bags.  Momma had made one for each of us out of cloth scraps and in my mind’s eye I can still see them.  At the right time, Momma would open the cedar chest and get them out for the special night. Now these are different days but back then as soon as it began to get dusky, we would hit the streets of our neighborhood.  It was a wonderful time of innocence—no danger, no dark tricks…we were safe and free, and we would run the streets until the porch lights were all out and our bags were full. 

Things are tragically different now.  The meaning has changed, the danger is real and well, it’s just not the same.  When our daughters were small enough to trick or treat it was still pretty safe, but we would never think of letting them go out by themselves and now, today, certainly not the grandkids. I wish they could have known the Halloween I knew but alas they are gone.  Things do in fact change.

Sadly, there is something else that hasn’t changed.  The trick part of trick or treat.  Back when I was, oh, ten or so, we might, maybe take a bar of soap and soap a window or two but even that was rare and brought a twinge of guilt. But those memories are not what I am thinking about.  I am talking about the ultimate, most evil trickster—the devil himself.  If you know anything about him you know he is a great deceiver and he loves to lead, or drag, people down a dark path of regret and consequences.  It’s who he is and it something he was done since the beginning of time.  Just ask Eve and Adam. He promises the best treat—which is a lie—and never tells the rest of the story—the trick. Like he told Eve, “Go ahead and have a bite—you won’t die.”  Well, we know how that turned out.

Well, I know this story is a day late and a dollar short, but the big truth is for every day.  Never, ever, trust what Satan offers.  Jesus said he is a liar and the father of it and trust me—Jesus always tells the truth. What Jesus offers—love, forgiveness, grace and peace—are all real and all can be ours for the asking.  He is the treat of a lifetime—with no small print and no tricks.  You can believe it—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne