Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Right Tool… Right Job

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

They’re in the garage…waiting.  Ok, let’s be totally honest.  I am, uh, not very handy when it comes to power tools.  It’s not that I don’t use them, and it’s not that I can’t use them, I just don’t use them as effectively as others.  I know when I work with the guys at church on some project, generally speaking, they won’t let me use the power tools.  It’s an act of protection—for me and for them.  Now, with all that said, I do have a pretty good collection of power tools.  And, when I do need them, they are there and if I am careful and patient, I can usually get the job done.

I have a set of tools all made by Ryobi.  The idea is that you have all these different tools, but they are all powered by the same battery or power source.  Several companies do this but I chose Ryobi mainly because they were cheaper than most of the other “he-man” professional brands.  I have, and this is the short list, a couple of drills, an impact driver, a saws-all, a circular saw, a light, a grinder, two string trimmers, two blowers (one small and one big) and a partridge and a pear tree.  Just checking to see if you were still there. Now all these tools use the same battery—the same power source which means I can switch the battery between them all.  It is cool and it is convenient.

Several of these tools, like the drills, blowers, and string trimmers, I use pretty frequently. Some, though, I rarely use—but here is the deal.  I may not use them often, but when I need one, they are so valuable.  I had a piece of metal sticking up in my back yard from an old house that once stood there.  This metal was a pain in the neck.  I would forget and hit it with my lawnmower and bump it with the string trimmer.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get rid of it.  Then one day I bought a grinder to add to my tool collection.  I took that dude in the backyard and eight years of frustration disappeared in a matter of seconds.  The difference? Right tool for the job.

While all these tools do different things, like I said, they all have the same battery.  I have learned one thing.  The tools without the battery are totally useless.  They might look impressive as you look into my big green Ryobi tool bag, but take away the power and they are just space stealers on a shelf.  However, put in the battery and bam—they become powerful and useful.

I suppose you are already connecting the dots here.  You probably have already figured out that all of us are different, and all of us have different skill sets, but all of us also need a power source to be what we were created to be.  Some might consider that to be a positive attitude or a strong work ethic, and while those are good things…they are not the thing.  From where I sit, the One who made me, who designed me is the source of strength in my life.  He makes all the skill sets come alive.  Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament said it right when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  At least for me, when I plug Jesus into life, into a situation, all of a sudden, there is power to do—to overcome.

Now, don’t make the mistake of confusing church and religion for Jesus.  In and of themselves I guess they are fine, but they are anemic substitutes for the real deal. Jesus is the power source that can change lives and He is just waiting to change yours.  Why not jump on the web and do a little research? Oh, sure you will find some who will think this God stuff is just a crutch to give hopeless people something to hope in.  But you are also going to find a big bunch of incredible people who believe just the opposite.  Hey, give it a shot.  I know after this crazy past year, as well as a zillion other tough situations, He is the real deal, and I’ve never found anything that He can’t handle.  Take it to the bank…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Greener Pastures

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

He was standing in the road.  A while back my wife Judy and I were on the road again…this time in middle Tennessee.  We like to travel a lot…it’s just something we enjoy.  We love to see what’s new and different and there is always something.  We were on our way to a waterfall and we had to travel down a narrow winding road.  As we were zipping along, at the breakneck speed of 25 mph, we rounded a curve in the road and there he was.

He was a young calf, oh, I would guess about 250 pounds grown.  He was calmly eating some weedy grass along the shoulder of the road.  It wasn’t a deal because I was going so slow but if I had been traveling a little faster…well, he could have been ground beef.  Oh, and by the way, what do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.  Get it?  Well, I probably lost some readers with that one.  Anyway, I slowed down a bit more and gently swerved around the calf.  I told Judy we should have snapped a picture.

As we drove around the calf, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things.  First, his name must have been Houdini because there was no gate and as far as I could tell, we couldn’t see a hole in the fence where my new friend could have escaped.  Second, as he contentedly munched on his weedy grass, on the other side of the fence was a great pasture just filled with nice, lush, green grass.  It was obviously where he had been before he did his Houdini thing and escaped.  Why in the world would he leave that for where he was is beyond me.  The only answer I could come up with is…the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Well, we went on our way and I told Judy when we came back let’s be sure and get his picture.  So, on the return trip as we neared the curve where he was before, we found an empty road.  Our friend had disappeared.  We traveled on a short distance and soon, off to our right, we found our calf.  Houdini had once again magically crossed the fence and this time was back in the greener pasture. How about that?  There were only two possible solutions.  One, he decided it was time to go home or two, in a moment of indecision he decided the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the fence…again.

Strangely, I can identify with the indecisive calf.  I mean, how many times have I changed my mind about this or that? I know sometimes it takes me fifteen minutes to decided what toothpaste to buy or what to get on my hamburger.  I guess the bottom line is that we are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  But I am so glad that God isn’t fickle.  I was praying this morning and telling God how glad I am that He has never changed His mind about allowing me into the family.  I mean I am sure I have given Him lots of reasons to change His mind, but it never seems to faze Him.  I like that. A lot.

So, if you find yourself wondering back and forth in-between the pastures of life, just remember that when it comes to you and His love for you, well, God isn’t looking for greener pastures or different or better people for that matter. God loves people, all people, and anyone who wants to come and graze in His pasture is more than welcome.  The gate is always open to anyone who is willing to leave their old pasture and put their faith in His Son Jesus.  It’s that simple.  There’s a verse in the New Testament of the Bible that says anyone who is willing to ask can be forgiven and cross over to His ultimate green pasture.  So, how about you?  Ready to switch pastures?  He’s ready if you are.  You will find the gate open and Him showing you the way.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Hard Day–Good Friday

Jesus knew that His mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture He said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to His lips. When Jesus had tasted it, He said, “It is finished!” Then He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.” John 19:28-30

Good Friday.  What an unusual name for such a hard, hard day.  Imagine with me as slowly the light increased over Jerusalem.  It was another early morning in spring and men were going to die.  The Romans regularly crucified criminals–it was business as usual for them.  But this day, well this day, would be different.  Three men would die on crosses–two criminals and one perfect human being.  His name was Jesus.

As the light increased so did the sounds.  If you had been there you would have heard the sounds of a crowd–a mob really.  Some were crying, some shouting, some angry, some broken.  You would have heard the sounds of struggle–anguish as a man carried a cross too big for even the healthiest of men.  At the top of a stark hill the sounds intensified.

You could hear without trying the sound of metal on metal as hammer meets nail.  Cries of humanity suffering as three crosses are lifted skyward.  The message was clear.  You don’t mess with Rome.  Scattered around are the sounds of women crying and men in anguish.  Stares of disbelief filled the eyes of many.  Listen now–there are words.

The Man in the middle–the perfect One–is speaking and what He says is almost beyond belief. “Father, forgive them.  They don’t know what they are doing.”  Forgive them? —Forgive the very ones who passed the judgement–who drove the nails–who lifted the cross? Wait, for there is more.  One of the criminals is mocking Him but the other is begging Him.  “Remember me,” he says.  And Jesus responds “Today, you will be with Me in paradise.”

There are more words.  Lean in–strain to hear. The Man in the middle–the perfect One–is asking His friend John to take care of His mother.  And then there is the cry of brokenness as He cries, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  He knows why.  The Man in the middle–the perfect One–has become sin and His Father can’t look on sin.  There’s a price being paid, and it involves wrath and death.  And He is willingly paying it.

As His end draws near a silence begins to fall over the hill.  The women are cried out, the soldiers are bored, and the crowd confused.  And then they all hear it.  “Tetelestai.” It’s a common word really.  It means finished.  An artist would say it when the last stroke is applied to a masterpiece.  A carpenter would say it when the last peg is driven in a newly built table. A farmer would say it when the last sheave of wheat is harvested.  But when the Man in the middle–the perfect One–says those words, everything changes.

“It is finished.”  The mission is accomplished. The price for sin has been paid and atoned for.  The wrath of God for sin is satisfied.  What justice demanded He has paid. And what He promised the criminal becomes a reality for any person. My sins, your sins, our sins, can be forgiven and you can be with me in heaven.

So, then He dies.  Actually, He wills himself to die for no one could take the life of the Man in the middle–the perfect One.  He could give it, but they could not take it.  Rocks crack, thunder rolls and then in the distance a tearing, ripping sound is heard as the massive curtain separating man from Holy God is torn from top to bottom and God–God hangs out the welcome sign for the first time ever.  And it’s all because of the Man in the middle–the perfect One.

In any other story that would be the end, but you see it’s only Friday.  The final act is coming on Sunday. Friday ended with His followers discouraged, defeated, and afraid. Maybe like some of us. But if you lean in again…if you listen closely…you can hear the Father saying, “Rest in Me. Wait till Sunday.  I’ve got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Stinking Allergies

For sin will not rule over you, because you are not under the law but under grace.”  Romans 6:14

It’s just about to drive me nuts.  For as long as I can remember, I have had to deal with allergies.  From the days of running the woods in Northeast Florida as a kid to now, stuff in the air drives me bonkers.  I can well remember the days in my early twenties when the only weapon I had to fight the battle with was some nose spray.  And the crazy part of that is if you use it too often and too long, it actually makes matters worse.

In the earlier days, my main issue was the fall.  There is this crazy plant called ragweed and when it starts to bloom, I start to suffer.  Itchy eyes, clogged nasal passages, and a sneeze that sounds like a chihuahua chasing their tail and wound way too tight.  Oh, and I don’t sneeze once—try six to eight times.  In this COVID mess this has been a real issue because people think I am coughing instead of sneezing, so they give you the death stare and then run.

About a zillion years ago, I discovered something called Flonase that changed my life.  It is a nasal steroid that tricks your nose and eyes into believing that there is nothing in the air.  It was a game changer and I have used it probably for 30 years or more.  Wow, it sure made fall easier.  I might still have some symptoms but at least it was tolerable. Well, about five years ago, something happened.  I started having the same symptoms in the spring too.  They weren’t as bad, and the Flonase keep everything in balance.  All that was true until this year.

As spring began to spring, my allergies started acting up, first in a little way and then in a big way.  Today they are acting in a “you’ve got to be kidding me” way.  So, when I started sounding like an overactive chihuahua I just start using my medicine.  For some reason, this spring, it didn’t work like before.  Now for the last couple of days, I have been sneezing and my eyes have been itching like crazy.  I went to the store yesterday and brought some drops but so far, well, we are still at war.

All of this is so crazy.  Some stuff from some plant is doing something to the lining of my sinuses causing them to go nuts and I end up in misery.  I mean, first, I did nothing to the stinking plants and second, what’s up with my hypersensitive sinuses.  Something that I can’t even see is making me pretty miserable.  I know, I should think positive but when you want to take your eyeballs out so you can scratch them better, it is hard to be positive.  And then I know you aren’t supposed to put your fingers in your eyes, but it feels so good to scratch them.  Oh, my goodness.

You know, I wonder what if sin (you know the things that God says we shouldn’t do) was as irritating as whatever it is that is driving me nuts?  What if it bothered me to the point that I would do anything to stop?  I do believe my life would be better…I know my life would be better.  But the problem with sin is the fact we like it way too much.  To many of us, it’s like the satisfaction I feel when I scratch my eyes or sneeze for the eighth time.  It feels better…it feels good.  But mark this down.  There are consequences.

Sneeze eight times with your eyes closed while driving and you end up running a red light or running into a ditch.  Bummer.  Scratch your eyes too often and you end up with an eye inflection or scratching something like whatever it is that makes your eyes work in the first place.  Regardless—you end up in a mess.  The best thing to do is what I am going to do.  I am gonna call my eye doctor friend.  I’m gonna ask her if there is anything, she can prescribe for me that will stop this infernal itching.  I’m gonna ask for help.  If there is anything that can be done, she will know and she will help.  She is my doctor, but she is also my friend.

It is the same way with this sin thing.  We need to call the sin doctor and that would be Jesus.  He knows all about sin—how to beat it—how to subdue it, and how to avoid all those nasty consequences.  He died so that sin wouldn’t win, and He is more than willing to help us, if we ask.  His death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin but He also gives us victory over the sneezing and itchy eyes part of sin—the day-to-day messiness of sin.  He gives us sin relief and I love that.

Paul, one of the main writers of the New Testament part of the Bible says that sin (along with all its messy consequences) does not have to rule over us—because we are not under the “thou shalt not’s” but under grace—God’s unlimited and unmerited favor.  And because of that, sin doesn’t have free-rein—so long consequences, you know, like too many sneezes and itchy eyes.  That sounds like good news to me.

Just know that if you hear something that sounds like an overactive chihuahua or see some guy with red eyes, don’t worry it is probably just me going nuts.  But remember, and this is the take-away, there is Someone who can handle your sin issues and that Someone is Jesus.  He loves you a lot—so much He died for you.  And whatever your issue is, you can take this to the bank, He’s got this, too.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sharing

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” Hebrews 13:16

My Mama taught me to share.  When there are a bunch of kids and other family members in a family you learn two contradicting lessons.  First, you need to share.  Often, especially when it comes to the good things on a dinner table, the demand usually exceeds supply.  You know, nine people and eight pieces of pie.  So, you cut the pieces smaller.  That is sharing.  The other lesson is you need to act fast.  We all know the adage that the early bird gets the worm or the one who eats his or her pie the fastest gets a shot at the last piece.  That is not sharing.

Sharing and putting others first are Jesus things.  He was the only guy who could go to any event and be the star of the show.  Be it a wedding, a funeral, or a banquet and bam…He was the most important person in the room.  But the funny thing is you never see that.  You always see Him at the back of the line.  The only time He was first in line was the line for the cross.  That was a very short line—in fact, it was only one deep and He was ready and willing to go because He loved us so much.

He was willing to share His righteousness too.  We didn’t have any of our own, so He gave us His.  The Bible says that our righteousness was like filthy rags, so He shared, in fact, He gave.  Its pretty amazing.  There are somethings we shouldn’t share like something told in private and maybe a cold.  But, as a general rule we should be people who love to share.  And that is where I need your help.

Over the last year lots of folks have been reading Grits.  Through our church email list, the Grits Facebook page, and through the gritswithgrace.com blog, people have been reading.  I want you know just how incredible I think that is.  My goal is to be an encourager and maybe even make you smile.  But most importantly, I want to share a big truth that helps us as we do life…together. 

So, that is where you come in. I am wondering if you would be willing to share Grits with those in your world? The guy who wrote Hebrews (great name for a coffee shop by the way) said that we should do good things and share because God is pleased with that.  That might even apply to Grits.  Sign up for the blog, share on Facebook, or share in an email, it’s all sharing a word of encouragement.

Something happened last week that I thought was so cool.  I was notified by email that someone had read one of the Grits’ stories and decided to start following the blog. That means every day they will get an email with that day’s story.  Sometimes, people just stumble onto the Grits blog, who knows how that happens? But what made this so special was this someone was a cabdriver in Southampton, England.  What? Yup. And I thought that was pretty cool. So, a special thanks to our friend there.

My wife Judy checked (the blog tracks locations) and we have had Grits’ readers from several countries and from a chunk of the states here in America.  And it usually happens because someone searches and finds a story, or someone shares it.  So, would you be willing to make it a daily habit to share your Grits?  It isn’t about just getting more readers but rather, it is about maybe encouraging someone who needs a lift on any given day.  Together we can be encouragers and hey, the more the merrier.

This last year has been a big challenge but I love the fact that God is bigger than any challenge we face.  I try and make that a regular theme as I write.  Life is pretty tough to go it alone and I believe that He is more than ready to walk with us.  So, thanks again for reading and thanks for sharing.  Oh, and by the way, for those of you who comment…thanks for that too.  I try and respond, and it is always an encouragement.  Well, outside night is turning to day, so it must be time to see what today holds.  One thing is sure…we can face it together with Him because as always, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Trials

Drop the Rocks

When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

It kinda made me mad.  I know there are a multitude of things in the world that make us mad and there are also degrees of madness—boy is that a play on words. There is a little mad, some mad, half mad and downright mad.  Well, anyway, I was just a little mad.  Back on the first Monday in January, I started walking again for exercise.  Since the weather is so unpredictable, I decided to just use the treadmill.  It isn’t as good as the outdoors but you sure can work up a sweat.  So, five or six days a week I have my date with “the mill.”  I have a television mounted right in front of me to keep my mind busy while I walk. With all the new streaming services there is a lot to watch.

One of my favorite things is something called “Aerial America.”  They take a particular state and with a drone and/or helicopter they fly all over the state and shoot video.  It is very interesting and stunning but there was a problem. Because it was filmed from the air, I had a hard time staying on the treadmill.  They would go up and down, left and right and I was all over the place with them. You know…where you stare you steer. Maybe I needed to find something else to watch while walking on the treadmill.  I decided it would be a great opportunity to get some good Bible teaching, so I started watching services from some of the guys I like.  It has been very profitable.

Different guys have different styles and I always try and pick speakers that stay close to the Bible and there are a couple that have large ministries and by and large do a great job teaching.  Now, I never agree with everything that every speaker says.  In fact, I teach every Sunday and guess what? I don’t always agree with me. It’s just a fact of life so if you teach publicly get ready for someone to say something.  I get that.  But then there was this morning.

As I was looking for something to watch from one of the guys I follow, I saw something that just about made me mad.  Some no-name guy, a pastor, teacher posted a video calling this nationally known speaker a “false teacher.”  Well, I didn’t watch his video because it wasn’t worth my time.  But I wondered exactly what caused him to say that this guy wasn’t the real deal.  Now again, I don’t always agree with everything this teacher says nor how he says it but “false teacher?”  I don’t think so.  He leads one of the largest evangelical churches in America.  He teaches the Bible and at the end of every service he has a time for people to act on what they heard and specially, to act on an invitation to accept Jesus’ invitation to follow Him.  He gives an old-fashioned altar call.

Oh, and one other amazing thing.  Everything this church produces, sermons, curriculum, music, you name it—they give it all away for free.  His church could make a zillion dollars but instead with incredible generosity they just give it away.  I find that amazing.  So, what’s up with the dude who made himself judge and jury?  If I were to take a guess it would probably be jealousy.  When someone is successful some people just assume that they are fake or false.  It seems the more successful a ministry is, the more people cast stones.  Cast stones…hmmm.  It seems like Jesus had something to say about that.  Remember?

There was a woman in the Bible taken in the very act of adultery.  The Pharisees (we won’t go there) dragged her out in public in front of Jesus and declared, “Moses said we should stone this woman.  What do you say?”  First, and always, don’t mess with Jesus.  You will lose.  But Jesus stooped down and wrote something in the sand, (we don’t know what), and then said, “Okay.”  Well, that wasn’t all He said.  The rest rattled their bones.  He said, “Okay, but the person without sin needs to cast the first stone.”  You could hear a pin drop, but then you would have heard something else—the sound of rocks falling to the ground.  And, beginning with the oldest to the youngest, they left—all of them.  Jesus looked at the woman and said, “Where are your accusers?”  They had skedaddled. And here’s the best part.  The One who was left, Jesus, the One who could condemn her—didn’t.  Amazing.

I know it is our natural tendency to chuck rocks but don’t you think maybe it is time to let the rocks fall.  Whether you are a Jesus follower or not, chucking rocks is a dangerous game.  Those rocks can act like boomerangs—and that will definitely leave a mark.  Should we practice a discerning spirit?  Absolutely.  But rock chucking has nothing to do with discerning—it has to do with a judgmental spirit.  I know, those rocks can be hard to drop sometimes but I know someone who is good at dislodging them from our sticky hands.  His name is Jesus, and you can take it to the bank, He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Shoeless Service

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, it really wasn’t but I’ve always wanted to begin a story that way.  But for one man it was, and this is his story.  Years ago, my son-in-law, Blake, and daughter, Sarah, were talking a walk on Church Street—a road that runs about a block behind where we live.  It is just one of the many side streets in town but that night it was something more.  As they walked, they noticed a man coming toward them.  He was obviously having a tough time—like I said, it was a dark and stormy night—at least for this lonely man.

His head was low as he shuffled his feet and pushed his bike.  As he got closer, when some people would have crossed to the other side of the street, Blake and Sarah took the time to greet the man.  His eyes told the story.  He was an Army veteran who had fallen on hard times.  He told how he had been refused treatment at the Veteran’s Center. He shared how memories of a band of brothers who would have stood with him were fading fast.  His uniform that night was dirty and tattered, but his shoes told the story.

Blake, looked down, and while there were shoes on his soiled feet, not much of what used to be remained.  The shoes he had on were way too small but that didn’t matter for much of the toes were blown open.  He told a little more of his story and each word made it clear that it wasn’t just a stormy day for this veteran…it was days, weeks, months, and years.  It would have been easy for the young couple to listen and mumble some semblance of a “I’m sorry” or maybe a “God bless you.”  But they didn’t—more specifically Blake didn’t.

As Blake was looking down at his feet—he saw his own.  His feet were shod in one of his favorite pair of tennis shoes—in nearly new condition.  And then something amazing, something very Jesus like, happened. Without a word, he reached down and began to untie his shoes.  Then he slipped his shoes off and handed them to the tired, banged up veteran.  I’m not sure what he said—maybe nothing.  But perhaps the gift said it all.  Perhaps the gift said better than any words could, “I care.  I feel your pain.”

So, after the exchange they went their separate ways.  He continued down the block and they finished their walk.  I believe that both the tattered veteran and the young couple left different that night.  Perhaps the man’s day was not quite as stormy as it was before his encounter with love.  Perhaps he didn’t feel quite as hopeless—quite as alone.  I know Blake and Sarah were changed.  When they got back to our house after their walk, they shared their story.  It wasn’t, a “hey, look what I did” but rather a “look what God did” kind of moment.  We cried. Jesus encounters will do that to you.

As we take our walks in this thing called life, there will always be multiple opportunities to do the right thing, the extraordinary thing, the uncommon thing.  Sometimes they will be disguised but often, they are in plain sight.  A struggling single mom, a senior adult trying to manage one too many bags, a challenged adult or child who needs a smile and the list goes on and on.  Jesus, the God-man, did plenty of amazing, brazen things during His life here.  The part we know the most about only lasted just over 1,000 days. And in those days, He impacted His known world and in the days since then the entire world.

There used to be a saying that was tossed around in our everyday Jesus walk lives.  It simply said, “W.W.J.D.” or “What would Jesus do?”  It has long since been cast aside now but the truth of those four letters or four words still ring with power.  What.Would.Jesus.Do? One thing is for sure.  It would include a multitude of acts of kindness to the most unlikely of candidates and it would be done in the name of love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”  What powerful words.  What life changing words.  The thought of doing this is counter-cultural and it might stretch you a bit but don’t worry— “He’s got this.”

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

My Blurry World

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Romans 13:14

One day it became obvious.  We all know about DNA and how we pick things up from our ancestors.  Whether it is hair (or lack of it) from an uncle or our leaning toward a certain body build, the ones who have gone before have left their fingerprints all over us. However, sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.  My Daddy and Mama both wore glasses and yet somehow, I ended up with pretty good vision.  I can remember in my younger years I could spot something in the distance that others would miss.  It was better than 20/20.

Then one day I noticed something.  While I don’t remember the exact day, I do remember the thing that called my attention to it.  One day, I looked down at my watch and realized that it was a bit fuzzy.  Hmmmm.  So, I moved my arm around a bit and soon everything was back in focus.  There….problem solved.  This went on for a while and though it was a slight inconvenience it wasn’t a deal.  Yet.

I was about 40 when this “slight inconvenience” began but I don’t think I fully understood that it was a beginning.  As the years went by, I began playing the trombone. You know, to get my eyes to adjust I would have to move my watch, or the book or whatever, in and out to gain focus.  That worked…until one day my arms just weren’t long enough.  My eye doctor told me what I already knew—it was time for readers.

Readers are these glasses you wear when your arms are too short. You don’t wear them all the time, you simply put them on when you need to look at something close up.  So, every morning, I wake up—or at least that’s the plan. And, because my regular vision is good, I still have the ability to see around the room and far off.  But when I sit down and want to read my Bible or my iPad it instantly becomes apparent—I need my readers.  I quickly remember that it is a blurry world without them—at least my close-up world is. So, I slip them on and boom—I can see—clearly.

The key is remembering where your glasses are.  I have multiple pairs in my home office,  I have two on my desk and one by my chair when I read.  I know that they are essential—to see close-up.  I know some people struggle with the far-off thing and I might too one day but for now…readers are my friends…readers are my essentials.  Nobody wants to live in a blurry world, especially when the world is so blurry you can’t make heads or tails of anything.

I’m a Jesus follower and because of that I know there is a pretty promising future out there.  I’m sure He has my future in His hands though I’m not sure what that always looks like.  I am learning just to hang on and trust.  I do know ultimately because of my faith in Him (and certainly not because I deserve it) I will spend my forever with Him in a place called Heaven. I don’t know where you land with that but, hey, it is most definitely worth checking out.  Grab a copy of the Bible and read it for yourself.  It’s been around a really long time with no revisions so it’s something that can be trusted.

But that is then. What about the here and what about the now?  Well, just like I really need a little help reading up close, I need more than a little help to do life—up close and personal. And that is one of my favorite things about following Jesus.  He doesn’t wait for a time way off in the future to be there for me.  He is here now.  Sometimes it is from the Bible, sometimes it is in my every day walkabout life, and sometimes it seems like a still small voice but He is there to help me in my otherwise blurry life. Over and again, I see His handiwork—I call them love notes—as He helps me journey.  I’m learning the more I look—the more I see.  The more I see—the more I want to look.

It took me awhile but now it is a natural reflex for me to put my glasses on. When I pick up a book, glasses on. When I’m reading the instruction manual, glasses on.  When I’m setting the thermostat, glasses on.  I’m also learning to put on Jesus the same way.  Difficult decision…Jesus on.  Wisdom to make it through the day…Jesus on.  Need help forgiving or being kind…Jesus on.  Paul, one of the writers in the New Testament, says that we should make it a point to put on Jesus, but he doesn’t stop there. He says that we should not even crack the door open for things that are contrary to the Word. He knows nothing blurs our world like going crossways with God. And here’s the amazing part…it really works.  Just like my glasses give me clarity, so does Jesus.  He makes life make sense.  And I have the confident assurance that because He can see clearly…He always knows the answer.  And because He does, He’s got this. 

Posted in Christmas, Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, Southern born, thankful

Santa Claus Came to Town

But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

It was a Christmas to remember.  I wish I could tell you the lengths that my Daddy and Mama would go to make sure we had a wonderful Christmas.  Daddy had a good job, but with a bunch of kids, money was always tight.  If I were guessing, we were probably at the bottom of the middle class.  But somehow, they always managed to make sure our Christmases were fairytale. One year stands out.

I was in the sixth grade and by now I had moved into the world of “nonbelievers”—if you get my drift.  I remember that year Mama had told me I could stay up later with the adults.  I guess you could say that I graduated.  That night, we visited, talked, and ate.  I’m sure Mama and some of the girls were in the kitchen preparing for Christmas Day.  At about 11:00 pm, I remember Mama telling me that perhaps I should go ahead and go to bed.  Maybe, she said, Santa Claus might still be coming to town.  Ho, Ho, Ho.

Since it was so late, I didn’t put up much of a fight.  I never was much of a person to stay up late—until I started dating that is.  Smile.  So, off to bed I went.  There were no visions of sugar drops dancing in my head—like I said, I was a “non-believer”.  Our house was an old, former World War II barracks and was long and narrow.  On one end was the kitchen, then a small dining room, next a living room with the bathroom and two small bedrooms, a breezeway and finally a garage turned bedroom.  That is where I slept.

The next morning sometime early, I got up.  I’m not sure if someone woke me up or it was just time.  I wandered through the breezeway into the living room where several of the family were sitting.  I backed up to the old two burner oil stove and warmed up a little. After just a few minutes, Daddy said, “Dewayne, go get me a cup of coffee.”  Coffee was a big deal around the Taylor house, so it certainly was not an unusual request.  I lingered just a moment more, savoring the warmth of the stove before heading to the kitchen.

As I left the living room and entered the dining room, I literally almost stumbled on something.  There parked right in the middle of the walkway to the kitchen was the most incredible red, English-racer bicycle you have ever seen.  Now, keep in mind, this was back when bikes were all the rage.  Unlike today when if it doesn’t have batteries or require electricity it’s not even worth mentioning.  It was beautiful. The frame was bright, metallic red, the fenders were chrome, it had three speeds, hand brakes and, wait for it, a generator light.

I was amazed.  Not in all my years could I have ever imagined such an extravagant gift. Somewhere there is a home video that my brother shot of the grand moment.  I was like someone who had just won the lottery—and from my perspective—I had.  I petted it, hugged everyone one I could find, threw on some clothes and went off into the darkness with my new English racer.  And that generator—oh yes, it lit the way.  And if that wasn’t enough, keep in mind this was in North Florida, so it was warm enough to ride—even early in the morning.

Like I said, my parents went way out of their way to gift us at Christmas.  Things might have been lean during the year but at Christmas, they pulled out the stops.  I had an idea how they did it.  Saving was not practical on such a limited budget, but they would get one of those loans from a finance company and then pay it off throughout the year.  It was so sacrificial.  I know I have many things to be grateful for from my parents, but the lengths they went to, so we could have Christmas touches my heart to this day.  I know it probably didn’t make financial sense, but they loved us that much.

I have another parent who did something that didn’t make sense either…and interestingly enough it involved Christmas and Easter. That would be my Heavenly Father. Knowing the world needed a rescue, a redemption, He sent His only Son into this broken world as a baby just so He could grow up and then give Himself to a Roman cross—just for us.  Paul, the guy God used to write a bunch of the New Testament, said it this way, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” While we were still broken, still messed up, unloving and unappreciative, Jesus died for us.  Nope, it made no sense but that is what I love about God.  I know sometimes He allows things that I don’t understand…like when I pray for someone to be healed and it just doesn’t work out like I want. But to know that He loved me enough to create Christmas and Easter—well, that’s just amazing.

So as Christmas rolls around, be sure and be grateful for the sacrifices made on your behalf by family.  I know, for some that might be difficult.  But try and find the good that is lurking somewhere out there.  But be sure and thank God for the greatest gift ever—His own Son and His sacrifice, that we can be forgiven and look forward to being in heaven one day.  Of course, the great part too is that having God as your Dearest Daddy means you get the Gift that keeps on giving.  He walks with us every day and through everything, side by side, hand in hand, and we have the grand assurance that no matter what—He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, life

Fish and Spaghetti

There is one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the Man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6a

No really…it is good. I’m a food mixer.  I know some people love to keep their food separate on their plates and some folks even eat one item at a time.  They will eat all their meat, all their potatoes and so on and so on.  Not me.  I like to to mix it up a little.  In fact the best bite on the plate is always the last bite.  It always has a little bit of everything on the plate. First you scrape it all together in a tidy little pile, scoop it on your fork and let it fly.  Awesome.

I’m not sure how it started but one of my absolute favorite mixings is tartar sauce and Heinz Ketchup.  When I order fish I always squirt a big puddle of ketchup on my plate and then mix in a helping of tartar sauce.  Then you take your fork and stir it together and start dipping your fish in this magic pink sauce.  All I can say is, if you haven’t tried it you need to.  Not too long ago a server at a restaurant noticed my strange concoction.  Without saying anything to me, she went back to the kitchen and stirred up a batch.  She was soon back at my table singing the praises of the power of “pink.”

They say that things go better with Coke and fish, all kinds of fish, go better with pink.  But…there is one exception.  Fish and spaghetti.  Ever heard of it?  Well, not only have I heard of it, I have had it several times.  In fact, Lord willing,  tomorrow night I will be sitting down to fish and spaghetti.  Now first, you need to understand it is not fish cooked in spaghetti, rather it is fish served with spaghetti.  I learned of this food miracle a while back.  A couple that attends our church invited my wife Judy and I over for supper.  We were served fish and spaghetti and it was incredible.

To be sure this dynamic combo is not an accident.  First, David is the fish cooker and the man takes frying fish to a new level.  Moist and crisp at the same time…it is “shoot that thang” good.  Second, Lisa makes some of the best spaghetti I have ever eaten. It is seasoned perfectly and has just a slightly different flavor then most spaghetti I have had.  I fell in love that night.  I am a fish and spaghetti man for life.

David is an African American and when we were discussing this duet, he assured me it was a “black thing.”  I had never heard of these two things together before and he told me to ask someone…so I did.  I asked another friend of mine who happens to also be African American, “So what do you eat with spaghetti?”  She quickly replied, “Fish.” There you go.  I have been a comfort food fanatic for over six decades and almost missed this food wonder.  It is almost a food group all of its on.

Things are like that sometimes.  Sometimes certain things just click together.  It is as if they were meant to be together. Peanut butter and jelly.  Chocolate and peanut butter. Cheese and summer sausage. Well, add fish and spaghetti to the list.  And while you are listing—be sure and add Jesus and you.  I have been a Jesus follower since 1975 and I am telling you He took life to a whole different level.  He makes the good even better and makes the difficult more than tolerable. He is amazing.  And just like fish and spaghetti if you’ve never tried Him you don’t know what you are missing.  He makes life worth living.

Now understand I’m not talking about you and religion, or you and church.  A relationship with Jesus is totally different from church or religion.  I like church and tolerate religion but neither one of them is even close to Jesus.  He is literally One of a kind. The Bible says that there is One go-between who can bring God and us together and it is the man Christ Jesus.  He gave His life to purchase freedom for everyone.  I hope you will get a copy of His Book—the Bible—and read about Him this Christmas season.  You will discover a Man like no other who loves you like no other.  He is a best friend on steroids. I admit these are crazy days we are living in—you know it and I know it.  I’ve found that Jesus adds stability, peace and hope to what can be a pretty difficult existence. With Him we go from surviving to thriving.  All you need to do is believe.  Believe that He is who He claims to be—the God man—believe that He died on a Roman cross to pay the price for your sin, believe He came back to life and believe that if you ask He will forgive you.  I took Him at His word and He is everything He claims to be.  He is the real deal.  And, hey, when God is your best friend you can sleep better at night and rest better in during the day.  When the God who made it all is your best friend—you can believe that He’s got this…and He does.