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

Gratitude

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:12-13

I was the leader of the pack.  When I was growing up in the 60’s, things were just a little bit different.  In my school there were a zillion kids and in my church youth group I was one or two years older than most of the other kids.  That became important when I turned sixteen and was eligible to get a driver’s license.  I remember I got my license before I attended driver’s education and I got a car before anyone else at church.  I was the leader of the pack.

Today, whenever I drive by the local school and look in the parking lot I am always saddened.  The lot is filled with fancy cars and trucks the likes that were never seen in my 1970 world.  A few kids did have nice cars, but most were leftovers and hand-me-downs.  Oh, I’m glad for the kids but I just hate they are not going to experience the joy of owning a 1960 Rambler.

Unlike today, it was not an automatic deal to get a car when you turned sixteen.  Get a license and you get a car is the general rule today. When I turned sixteen you got the right to ask dad to borrow the family car…occasionally.  Only the coolest kids got to actually own a car—and I was about to get cool.  My sister and brother-in-law lived in Daytona Beach and he had a car that he drove back and forth to work.  When he upgraded, rather than sell his old one, they told my mom and dad that they were willing to give it to me.

Then, and even more now, I realize just how generous that was.  It wasn’t necessarily the value of the car as it was them thinking how that just might increase my standing in the world.  Dewayne Taylor…car owner.  Oh, yes, things were about to get better…much better.  So one day, they drove the car up to Jacksonville and pulled in the driveway.  There she was.  I know beauty is in the eye of the beholder and to me she was beautiful.

She was a 1960 Rambler Deluxe.  Now in case you don’t know, Rambler was a division of American Motors which of course is now a part of car history.  This beautiful hunk of metal was…well…unique.  It was hand-painted (as in with a brush) a deep royal blue color.  The brush marks only added to it’s uniqueness.  Right down the middle of the body was a bold yellow racing stripe.  Having lived most of its life near the ocean it probably had an equal amount of metal and Bondo filler in the body.  It was powered by a straight line 6 cylinder, 195 cubic inch monster producing 127 horsepower with a very pronounced rod knocking.  Anything over 35 miles per hour and the engine sounded like a professional drummer going wild on a trap set. She boasted a three speed manual on the column.  It wasn’t exactly a muscle car but she was mine.

One of the first things my dad and I did was go to Sears and buy a set of seat-covers.  This was 1970 so we bought navy blue covers plastered with bright red and yellow flowers.  To enhance its racing car mystic, I even installed a tachometer on the dash.  I was ready.  My job bagging groceries at Food Fair provided gas money and I was the indeed the leader of the pack. I became the “go to” guy for social events.  “Hey, wanna go horseback riding on Saturday? Great, I’ll pick you up.” “Wanna go to the movies Friday night?  Be at your house at 6:00.” Yup, life was good.

The old Rambler lasted somewhere over a year and the old engine just kept on knocking.  It was the clutch that finally gave out.  Dad decided it wasn’t worth fixing so it eventually found its way to the junk yard.  No, there wasn’t a big, fancy replacement.  It was back to borrowing when I could.  But for those months…I was the leader of the pack and I was grateful.

One of the things we have lost over the years is gratitude.  Somewhere we have almost lost the fine art of being grateful for the little and big things that come our way.  We stopped being thankful and instead become jealous of what others have.  It leads to a vicious cycle of keeping up with the Jones.  In case you don’t know, they are the couple down the street that always seem to have more than you.  We work longer hours, carry way too much debt and still have the gnawing feeling that we need, we deserve, more.  We believe the commercial line, “we deserve a break today” only it isn’t for a burger built our way.

The Book has a lot to say about gratitude and commitment.  Paul, one of the New Testament writers, said he had learned the secret of being content with whatever, whenever. Do you know where he was when he wrote those words? He was sitting in a Roman prison waiting for them to decide when they were going to kill him.  Incredible. The secret?  Faith in Jesus Christ.  He went on to say, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” He was saying his faith in God was enough.  Everything else was gravy. I’m not saying every car in the lot needs to be a Rambler but I am saying one of the best gifts you can give your kids is the gift of gratitude…teaching them to be thankful for simple things…the little things…things like an old Rambler with more Bondo filler than metal.  Teach them to be content.  Of course there’s a catch.  You kinda have to understand that yourself before you can teach them.  Tell you what.  Sometime today why don’t you take time and talk to your Heavenly Father about contentment.  He’ll probably whisper, “I’m enough. Rest in Me. I’ve got this.”  He is, we should, and He does. 

Posted in Family, Father's Day, Grace, gratitude, life

Daddy

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

He didn’t wear a cape or an iron suit but he was a hero to me.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was born.  It all happened on January 6, 1954 in Orange Park, Florida.  I was number eight in a family of eight. This can’t be confirmed but I think it went something like this.  My daddy was somewhat of a perfectionist and he and my mom had tried seven times to have the perfect child.  He went to my mom and said, “Well, honey, I know we have tried seven times to pull off this perfect child thing and I say we give it one more shot.  I really think eight is going to be our lucky number.”  So, ta-da here I am…living proof that persistence pays off.

My daddy was 42 years old when I was born.  He had plenty of experience at the Father thing and you know, I think he did a great job.  I don’t recall a lot of special events in my early and later childhood but that isn’t because they didn’t happen.  I can remember family camping trips to the beach as well as all night fishing trips to the same.  I can remember family vacations to see relatives in all the hot vacation spots like New Jersey and Texas.  I can remember trips to Silver Springs, Six Gun Territory and Doctor’s Inlet which was a great place to go for a lake swim.  But there are also several memories with just dad and me.

When I was about six, daddy took me fishing on Cedar Creek.  It was just me and him.  At this age, I wasn’t very good at fishing or paying attention.  Truth be known I had a hard time staying focused on anything for very long.  Anyway, the fish were biting that day but I had a hard time watching the bobber.  Over and again, daddy would ask, “Dewayne, where’s your bobber?”  I would look and it was gone.  We lost a lot of good worms that day.

Later, when I was about ten, daddy took me hunting.  The big deal was that he allowed me to take my BB gun.  I wasn’t allowed to carry a real gun; you will see why in a moment.  So, we were walking through the woods and I was about four feet behind dad.  Silent as a F5 tornado, I crept through the woods.  I was too noisy but dad was way patient.   And then, well, I shot him in the back.  Now wait, don’t panic.  It was only a BB gun and he did have his heavy hunting jacket on.  I had my finger on the trigger (oops) and every so slowly and without even realizing it, increased the pressure.  Just like that it went off and got dad square in the back. Bummer.

Do you know what?  He didn’t holler and in fact he didn’t say a single word.  He just looked over his shoulder and gave me that “I’m glad that wasn’t a 12 gauge” look.  I appreciated that and have never forgotten the fact that he could have made me feel “less than” but didn’t.  I’m sure we had a talk about gun safety and it must have worked out  because I never shot him again.

My two favorite memories of him don’t involve a fishing pole or a gun.  They involve God.  Honestly, daddy didn’t go to church a bunch but I know he was a Christian because of the way he lived. Two events, two memories are burned into my mind and heart.  The first is a time when we were having prayer time together as a family.  Some people call it family altar…at the time I probably called it too long.  I remember it was time to pray so we all got down on our knees around the room.  I got a little bored so I peeked and there across the room was my daddy, on his knees, talking to God.  It made a big impression on my young heart.

Later, when I was about 17 I caught daddy praying again.  I came home from a date late one night and there sitting at the kitchen table was my daddy—praying.  With his hands clasped together he was talking to God.  I don’t know what prompted the late night prayer meeting but I know it again made a big impression on me as a young man. And that is the point.  My daddy made an impression on me that impacted so many areas of my life.  Integrity, work ethic, caring and providing for your family and being a man were all part of the core curriculum.

I didn’t get to keep my daddy too much longer.  When I was in high school he had a massive heart attack.  He lived a couple of more years but when he was just 62 and I was 20, God decided to take him home.  Suddenly, on a Sunday morning he went to heaven.  It was hard and is hard to this day.  He never got to meet my wife, children or any of his eight great grandchildren. He never got see much of my career in the Air Force or hear me preach a sermon.  I hope in heaven they keep tabs on us down here and I hope I’ve made my hero proud.

Well, now that we are all sad and weepy let me throw this in.  Whether you are young or older, take the time this Father’s Day, and every day, to tell your dad (and mom) how much you appreciate them.  One of God’s big commands is that we honor our parents and when we do—we honor Him.  There’s no better way to do that than to tell them and show them that you love them. I know things don’t always work out with dads and if that is the case with you I am so sorry.  My dad wasn’t perfect…none are but his love outweighed his warts. If you are a Jesus follower, I hope you can extend some grace…just like God did to you.  And always remember, you have a Heavenly Father who is perfect, who always gets it right. He’s always waiting for you to crawl up in His lap and take a rest.  And the icing on the cake is He is stronger than a super hero…and because of that, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, thankful

Ready. Set. Fire.

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11)

I just couldn’t resist.  All of us have stories that we don’t necessarily remember but are passed down through the years.  Some are humorous, some are serious and some are the things legends are made of.  Well, this one I believe qualifies as all three. 

When I was quite young, probably six or seven, life was pretty good.  We lived in a country setting that was rapidly becoming the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida.  There was a subdivision being built right next to where we lived.  Some of the men who were working there would drive these cool wedge shape sticks in the ground at the corners of each lot.  They had numbers on them.  They were surveyor markers for the lots.  We thought they made great rubber band guns so we would help ourselves.  We had an endless supply of rubber bands because the newspaper came each day with one or two wrapped around it. We weren’t trying to be mischievous; we just trying to have fun.  I bet it wasn’t fun for the guys who did the surveying.

Sometimes, our fun might become someone else’s pain.  And, there is where the story really begins.  Back in those days, going to the grocery store was the great adventure.  My dad got paid every other Friday.  Payday night we would load up in the car and go to buy groceries.  It seemed we would always buy the stuff to make sandwiches for supper when we got home which invariably included a gallon of chocolate milk.  It never saw the light of the next morning.

Well, one Friday night, we were at the grocery store and apparently I had a rubber band left over from my adventures that day. I must have reached in my pocket and found the small piece of rubber and thought, “You know, we can have some fun with this.”  Well, I probably should have thought that through a little better, but when you are six or seven and mischievous by nature, anything is game.  I started looking for targets.

Down the aisle was a rather large woman.  And what happens next has been blocked from my memory but is stated as fact.  As we got closer to the woman, perhaps as she studied what brand of mayo to buy, I took the rubber band, placed it between my thumb and pointer finger, moved my hand in close proximity to the intended target and let it fly.  I can only imagine what happened next.

First, I am certain she was shocked.  It must have felt like a killer bee had bit her but that wasn’t logical since she was in a store.  So she probably spun around and looked only to see this smiling kid with a rubber band still in his hand.  To me it was all fun.  To her it was all pain.  Lesson one.  Don’t let your fun become someone else’s pain.

Second, I am certain my parents were devastated.  Since this would have been about 1960 or 61 there were not the social rules about child discipline that we have today.  Knowing my dad and mom, there was probably swift and lethal retribution.  I can imagine one of them, both of them, making sure my bottom felt like her bottom.  No one would have called Children and Family Services.  They all would have said, “Let me help you with that.”

Third, I believe that this is when I began to really understand repentance.  Repentance means to turn around and go in a different direction.  If I could have gotten loose from Dad that night I would have definitely practiced repentance…I probably would still be running.  The other meaning of repentance is to have a change in attitude.  I am certain that happened.  If you were to ask me how many other times I decided to pop a strange lady with a rubber band in the grocery store that number would be zero.  So how the urge suddenly left me.  I had repented.

This is going to sound hokey but it is memories like this that show how much my parents loved me.  They loved me enough to teach me right from wrong, respect for other people, a strong work ethic and to believe in God.  And they loved me enough to give me a swat or two when I needed it.  It all came together to help me grow, and live and love.

God is the same way.  My dad and mom loved me so much but God outshines even them.  He loves me and teaches me to do life with fewer oops and fewer consequences. I never carry rubber bands in my pocket just to avoid the temptation.  But He also loves me enough to discipline me when I need it. The author of Hebrews says it best.  He writes, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Spot on.  He must have popped some lady too. So, try and show some grace.  I shouldn’t have popped the lady and I haven’t popped any more.  Don’t judge my parents for taking care of the problem.  I am grateful for the way they raised me.  And don’t be mad at God if He disciplines me or you.  He is way too wise to make a mistake and way too loving to do the wrong thing.  He is our “Abba Father,” our dearest Daddy so we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him.  Because…He’s got this.