Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Baby Sarah is Missing

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

A few days ago, we celebrated the birthday of our youngest daughter who is now 33 years old. It caused us to remember one of the scariest times in our lives.  As a pastor and family, Sunday has always been a crazy time for the Taylors and one of the busiest days of the week. And, when things get busy, and crazy, well something strange, and perhaps scary, is bound to happen.  And one day it did.  I was pastoring at Cobden First Baptist and had been there for seven or eight years.  When we arrived, we had two daughters and when we left, we had three. Our third daughter, who was affectionally called by many, Baby Sarah, came along in 1989.  Fast forward about four years.  Before I go any further, please know that the statute of limitations has expired for child neglect.

Judy and I always drove separately to church.  We had two morning services and since I was the preacher, I got to go to both of them. We had two great services and while it wasn’t unusual to do something with one of the families after church, that day we just went home.  Judy got home before I did and I showed up a little later.  We started decompressing and getting ready for lunch when someone asked, “Where’s Sarah?”  I looked at Judy and Judy looked at me. I thought she had Baby Sarah and she thought I had Baby Sarah.  It quickly became apparent that no one had Baby Sarah.  Crisis on steroids.

We jumped in our car and literally raced over to the church.  No Baby Sarah.  One of our best friends lived almost across the street from the church. Their daughter was Sarah’s best friend.  Maybe she was there.  It was locked up.  No Baby Sarah. Needless to say we were in a panic. Someone told us they thought that our friends had gone out to eat at a restaurant that was several miles out of town.  We thought maybe they had taken Baby Sarah with them and forgot to tell us.  That wasn’t the case.  We lived halfway up a steep hill and as we were in the front yard, trying not to panic, we saw a small figure running towards our house. Her long blonde hair was flying in the wind and she looked exhausted. It was Baby Sarah coming home.

So, here’s what happened.  Our friends had some new kittens.  Maggie, Baby Sarah’s best friend, asked her to come see the kittens.  So they went to Maggie’s house, across the street from the church to see the new arrivals.  Maggie’s parents, not knowing Baby Sarah was with Maggie, hollered for Maggie to come down so they could go out and eat.  Baby Sarah stayed put.  After a few minutes she realized she was all alone in the house.  She somehow managed to get their door unlocked and opened and she started towards our house which was about a mile away.  Now Cobden was a small town, but getting to our house from the church involved going over a railroad crossing and a pretty busy road.  Baby Sarah managed to navigate all of that and find her way home.  Remember, she was only four or so.

Back to the story.  When we got to her she was beet red from the heat and barefoot because she left her shoes at Maggie’s.  Her toes were bleeding from the rough pavement.  Amazingly, other than that, she was fine.  It was quite the reunion and we were so grateful to have her back.  We learned a very valuable lesson that day—count the kids when you leave the house for church and more importantly, count the kids when you head back home.  The bottom line? It was just one of those things that can happen if a couple of details are missed.  In this case one of the details was Baby Sarah.

So, besides counting your kids, what is to be learned from this scary tale?  Well, it is obvious but it isn’t.  The big question is, “How did Baby Sarah know how to get home?”  How did she know how to safely navigate the railroad tracks and the busy street?  The answer is this.  In the course of everyday life, we had driven, but more  importantly walked that path many times.  Time after time, hand in hand, she had walked with her mother and sisters so that when she had to do it alone…she could…she did.  That wasn’t our intended lesson but it was a very valuable lesson indeed.

Moms and dads and others who have a role in molding and shaping others—remember this—we are teaching whether we know it or not.  Our everyday routines are being imprinted on young hearts and minds.  And someday, when you least expect it, those imprints will become very, very important.  The Bible talks about training up a child in the way they should be so that when they are older they will know the way.  That was true for Baby Sarah that day in a practical way.  But trust me, it is true every day in ways that we may not see coming.

Because Baby Sarah was prepared that day to walk a path by herself, this story has a good ending.  It is one of our favorite stories though it still causes us to shudder.  I believe there is another reason why Baby Sarah made it home that day.  I believe our Dearest Daddy was watching over her.  And the truth is that no matter what or how the story ends, I’m learning that I can trust Him and rest in Him.  I’m learning that even in life’s scariest moments—like the ones we are living in right now—we can know that He’s got this.  Always has…always will. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Mr. Fix It

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16-17

Call me Mr. Fix It.  I love to fix things and I love to be the hero.  No matter what the problem, no matter near or far, no matter what.  Back when Blake and Sarah were living in Savanah, Georgia courtesy of the United States Army, she let us know her vacuum had a broken belt.  Well, instantly my hero genes kicked in.  It didn’t matter that she was eleven hours away…it only mattered that my baby girl had a problem, and she asked her Mr. Fix It dad to solve the problem. First a couple of side notes. Blake, her husband, is an able Mr. Fix It guy in his own right.

Second, Sarah asked me to go by our Walmart and get a replacement belt.  I assumed that she assumed that was the problem.  So, by now you may be asking, “Oh, they don’t have Walmart’s in Georgia?”  Well, actually they do, but somehow it made sense for us to go get one and take it to Georgia.  Maybe they are just better here. Well, shoot that thang!  I happened to remember that we had a vacuum like hers (or maybe we had given the vacuum to her) and I had a spare belt laying around.  Cha-Ching!  Thank you, sir, and keep the change.

We get to Georgia and the day after our arrival the time to fix the vacuum was at hand. First, I dislodged the screws from the top and bottom and removed the cover.  It was then I had the first ah-ha moment. There naked before the world was a 100% not broken belt. So, I said to Sarah, “Hey girl, the belt isn’t broken.”  It was then that Sarah said, “Well, it wouldn’t work.” All of a sudden, the great victory of finding a spare belt rapidly deflated.  You see, as an amateur Mrs. Fix It, she had misdiagnosed the problem.  I plugged in the vacuum and, of course, it fired right up.  Then Sarah said the real problem was that it wasn’t picking up the dirt. And that’s when it got interesting.

Assisted by my son-in-law Blake, I began a close examination of the vacuum.  It soon became apparent that it was clogged up. Now if you are not familiar with clogged vacuums there are at least three classes of clogs.  There is the “partial clog”, the “hmmm, this is serious” clog, and then there is the “clog of Biblical proportions”. Since there was absolutely no suction, we knew this was definitely not a “partial clog”.  We soon discovered we had the “mother of all clogs”.  Upon examination we found, and I’m not kidding, three golf balls, two match box cars, and six inches of impacted debris.  I was sure we had found the problem.

Well, my assistant and I carefully removed the trio of golf balls and the two match box cars. Finally, we began to dig, pull, tug and poke at the six inches of debris. Three days later (ok, not really but it seemed that long) the hose was finally clear.  At that point, we emptied the debris catcher thing, cleaned the filter, plugged it in, and it fired right up.  The results were incredible! In fact, before we could stop it, it sucked the carpet off the floor and a small section of the sub-flooring.  (Ok, that part just isn’t true, but I needed to beef up the story.)

Soon we were high-fiving and celebrating the ultimate vacuum cleaner rescue.  Mr. Fix It and his able assistant saved the day. Now believe it or not there is moral to this story—besides the obvious one that says don’t suck up three golf balls and two match box cars with your house vacuum cleaner. The moral is this–when something is wrong don’t automatically assume you know the answer.  Sarah just assumed the belt was broken and it wasn’t.  And, even with a house full of boys, never in her wildest imagination, could she believe that her vacuum had consumed three golf balls and a couple of cars. I could just see the boys having such a good time with their new game of “sucking up” golf balls and match box cars…like “how many can we get in there?” Boys.

And what is true in vacuum repairs can also be true in our lives.  When things just aren’t clicking in your life, look closely because it may not be what you think. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In other words, we need to watch where we vacuum—what we pick up, and where we step. Being wise is knowing what to do and then doing it. Remember the old saying, “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”  Well, trust me it, is so true.

Remember, when life goes south, take your time as you figure out the problem.  Too often we want to treat the symptoms and don’t want to address the real problem.  All the belts in the world weren’t going to get our vacuum going because what seemed like the logical answer was not the problem at all.  If you are a Jesus follower, ask Him and He will point you in the right direction. Life can get pretty clogged up, but don’t let the frustrations get to you. I bet Blake and I took a rest after fixing the problem and maybe you need to take a rest too…in Him.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

It Came from Behind

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love.” John 15:9

It came from the backseat.  My entry into the world of pastoring was…abrupt.  I told God I was willing to be a pastor and the next thing I knew…I was one.  I spoke at a small church about 25 miles from where we lived. They were kind enough to invite me to come back and that is when it happened.  They asked me and my wife Judy to leave the room and when we went back in, they said, “We just voted to ask you to be our pastor.”  Well, I was honored but told them I didn’t know how to do that.  They smiled and said, “Don’t worry…we will teach you.”  And they did.

Soon we were in love with them, and they loved us back.  So, our lives changed dramatically and very quickly. When I became their pastor, we had one daughter, Rebecca and Judy was pregnant with our second child.  Jennifer came into our family in August and our Sunday mornings went from crazy to crazier.  New to this pastor thing, I wanted to get to our church before anyone else and since we lived some distance away, we had to leave pretty early.

These were the early days of car seats but the bottom line was the same.  Every child had to be strapped into a car seat.  That included cute little three-year-old blonds who were not fond of car seats…cute little three-year-old blonds who would later declare, “Give me my way and it will be ok.”  Well, one Sunday morning, Rebecca decided she was not going in the car seat.  So, it fell to me to convince her that one way or another she was.  There was a battle and I’m sure of two things.  First, she did end up in the car seat.  Second, I’m sure I wasn’t feeling very spiritual as I drove to church that morning.

So, after wrangling her into the car seat and with sweet little, innocent baby Jennifer on the other side, we left for church.  The crying was over and there was a deafening silence from the back seat.  And then, it happened. From the silence came this sweet, child’s voice that said five words that to this day are part of our tribe’s history.  Those five words were, wait for it, “I’m standing on the inside.” I know, I just know, Judy and I had to look at each other and refrain from laughing. I.Am.Standing.On.The.Inside.

Well, the rest of the trip is lost to time but who cares…we had our memory.  As I said earlier that little blond was just a little strong willed from the beginning and yes, she later said, “Just give me my way and it will be ok.” Well, I’m sure only a few of you know our oldest daughter but after a few, ok, more than a few times of knocking our heads together (figuratively speaking) she has grown into one of my favorite people.  And more than a few times I have referred to that Sunday morning.

It is no secret that a lot of us have a bent toward rebellion.  Sometimes it is with parents, sometimes spouses, and too often with God.  Rebellion is what got us in trouble with God in the first place.  God said no and our original parents in the Garden of Eden said, “Yes” and the rest is history.  Why is that?  Well, there are many reasons but a primary one is a lack of trust and understanding.  You see, little Rebecca thought I was being mean.  I knew I was being loving and responsible.  I was trying to protect her.  And guess what?  So is God. In fact, John 15:9 says, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” Wow!

You see, He knows all about the pain, suffering and consequences of sin and wants to protect us from that.  His book, the Bible, really isn’t a law book…it is a love book and in one way or another that is declared verse after verse, page after page, and chapter after chapter. If we listen carefully, we will hear the Whisperer whispering and often it will be words of love and encouragement.  And, sometimes, we will just have to sit in the car seat…period.  There are two things we can take to the bank.  First, He has our best interest in mind. Period.  And secondly, that no matter what, car seat or not, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Unwanted Legacy

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

It was an unwanted legacy.  My wife Judy and I have three adult daughters. It is a standing joke in our house that anything that is bad or negative (weight, cholesterol, heart issues, blood pressure, etc) always come from me…the dad.  The good stuff invariably is attributed to the mom.  Now there can be no doubt that our daughters get their good looks from her, but I think there might be a little prejudice about this other stuff.  I am sure it all can’t possibly come from me.  Or can it?  You see, sometimes I think that I might, accidentally, unintentionally pass on an unwanted legacy.  Let me give you an example.

So back in August of last year I went dancing with my worse girlfriend, Corena.  In case you don’t know that was my nickname for the COVID virus.  Yes, I had been vaccinated but regardless she asked if I wanted to dance and apparently, I said yes.  It wasn’t fun.  As COVID cases go, might wasn’t too bad but it was enough to make me glad when the dance was over. Fortunately, as far as I know, no one, including my wife, came down with it.  After a week or so, it was all over and in the rearview mirror.  No harm, no foul just a bump in the road of life.

Well, late this past fall I started feeling crummy again.  I checked in with my doctor and friend and he quickly diagnosed me with the flu—let’s nickname that “Flo”.  Now this wasn’t the stomach flu…this was the real deal.  I’m not sure if it was Type A or Type B but I do know it was the kind that made you want to die. It, like Corena, lasted long enough for me not to want to have it again and I was glad when she waltzed out of the room.

Well, it all started on a Friday evening. I developed a cough and just started crashing.  Unfortunately, three of my grandsons were spending the night and not knowing what the deal was…they just cuddled up with “Papa.” As the night went on it was apparent that I had something, but we just didn’t know what.  The next day they all loaded up and went home and I went to bed. At the time I didn’t know what I had but I hated that I might have infected them. My diagnosis didn’t arrive until Sunday and the bad news came on Monday.

Yup…my daughter called and two of the three had an unexpected, unwanted legacy.  It wasn’t high blood pressure, or cholesterol, or hair loss…it was the flu.  Fortunately, there weren’t any complications, but they sure felt lousy for several days.  I can remember Judy talking on her phone to our daughter with the speaker on and I could hear one of coughing and it just broke my heart.  Unexpected, unintentional, or not…I had infected, impacted them.  It was an unexpected, unwanted legacy.

Well, all that thankfully is in the rearview mirror but the whole deal left me with an important lesson.  Whether it is a health deal or some other sort of deal, we need to understand and realize that we are all impacting those around us.  And, often, it is the ones closest to us…the ones we love the most.  Of course, there are plenty of good legacies and for those we can and should be grateful and proud.  But there are others…actions and words that scar or habits that hurt…that we need to arrest so we can avoid passing them down and around.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to take our “legacy temperature” frequently. Perhaps we should ask and honestly answer the question, “Is there something that might be a story, a memory, a habit that might be an unwanted legacy?” If there is, we should take action to stop it or change it.  The good news is- rarely is it too late to stop before there is an unwanted impact or infection.

It’s probably not the best verse for this story but it sure rings true.  Paul, the one who wrote a bunch of the New Testament Bible said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Usually, bad company is intentional, and unexpected and unwanted legacies are not…but the outcome can be same.  So, starting today, ask the hard questions and make sure what you are leaving behind is not only worth sharing but a story that would make others smile.  Need a little help?  I know just the one…my Dearest Daddy. He is always there, always willing to help.  He’s got this too. 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, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Before Daybreak

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Mark 1:35

Something just wasn’t right.  You know you never know what you are going to get when you stay with someone.  From the bed to what’s for breakfast, well, it’s all up for grabs.  That is especially true when it comes time to shower.  I’ve learned you just have to be flexible.  Sharing the house with my wife, three daughters and a girl dog meant that things could get pretty girly.

I am a man, so I used man soap.  It might be whatever was on sale, or it could even be Lava—that soap that grinds off the first layer of your skin.  One thing was for sure—it didn’t smell like a girl.  Then came all these women in our household along with the advent of body wash.  It wasn’t long before the Lava, he-man soap was replaced with something that smelled like roses or gardenias.  This really causes a problem when you walk into the office and smell like a garden.  The guys on staff kinda give you a strange look.

But here is the deal.  It didn’t stop with just the soap or even the shampoo.  It got down to the toothpaste.  Oh, it wasn’t that it tasted like flowers…it tasted like bubblegum.  Judy and I were recently spending the night with our daughter and son-in-law and their kids…a couple of our grandkids.  So, anyway, I survived the sweet-smelling soap and shampoo only to discover that I was out of toothpaste.  I looked around and gratefully found a tube on the vanity.  I didn’t read the label past the part that said, “toothpaste.”

I squirted a glob on my he-man electric toothbrush and proceeded to give my teeth the once over.  About two seconds in the process, I realized that this toothpaste tasted different.  You see, I am old-fashioned.  I believe that toothpaste should taste like peppermint on steroids.  You know, the kind that when you are done you know you don’t have bad breath.  And mouthwash? It’s gotta be the same.  I like to take a big swig of Listerine and swish it around for as long as I can stand it…about five-seconds.  Well, that day was not like any of that.

As I brushed, I realized this toothpaste was sweet and gooey.  It took me a moment before I could place the taste and then it hit me.  It was bubblegum.  Now, excuse me, but who ever heard of bubblegum toothpaste? What’s next, “Snickers?” I thought the whole point of this process was to clean your teeth not to birth a desire to blow bubbles.  What is the world coming to? Well, anyway, there was no other option, so I finished up.  I went out into the kitchen still kinda wanting to pucker my lips to blow a bubble.  And besides that—something just didn’t feel right and then it hit me.  It just didn’t feel clean…and I told Judy so.  I knew I had brushed my teeth, but it didn’t feel like I had brushed my teeth.

You know, and this probably seems weird, but that is sometimes how I feel after another of my morning habits—my quiet time.  A quiet time is when you get by yourself, read God’s Book, the Bible, maybe read what someone else wrote about God and then talk to God.  It’s God time to get you ready to face the day.  I know it is a good idea because Jesus did it.  More than once in the Bible we are told He got up early and went out by himself and prayed. I figure if it worked for Him, it would certainly work for me.

Now there are some days I know that what I read stuck and what I prayed got heard. Even though I couldn’t see God—I knew He was listening. But then there are the “bubblegum” days.  Days when I read and don’t remember and pray and feel like my prayers were just circling the ceiling fan. Oh I “brushed” but it just didn’t feel like it. Just like bubblegum toothpaste. Hmmm.

I know that if you want minty—well, you must get some minty toothpaste. All the sweet gooey toothpaste in the world just won’t get the job done.  And if I want to have a God time that is going to make a difference…it must be intentional.  Not just a habit but a special time with your Heavenly Father…the One who loves you no matter what—the One who patiently waits for you—for me…the One whose grace leaves us fresh and spiritually minty!  So, why not mark your calendar for a time tomorrow when you can meet with the One who loves you the most.  Take a moment to rest in Him and know that “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, life, love, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Snake and the Girls

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:15

The story you are about to read is true and it may scar you forever.  When our girls were young, about six and five, we lived in Cobden, Illinois.  We owned a large 100-year-old Victorian home which was located on the edge of town.  We had woods nearby and of course lots of flower beds.  The church where I pastored was wanting to hire a guy to lead worship and work with the youth.

His name was David, and his wife was Sue.  They came and stayed for the weekend, and we had them over for supper on Saturday night.  After we had eaten, we were sitting around and chatting.  It was getting close to bedtime, so we told the girls it was time for them to go upstairs and get ready for bed.  So, because they were perfect little girls (not), off they went while we continued to visit and chat.  It was just about then chaos broke out.

We heard what sounded like a herd of water buffalo coming down the stairs combined with the sound of a tornado siren going off.  I looked at Judy, she looked at me as we waited to see what the girls had cooked up.  All parents know that when kids are told to get ready for bed there is always a great conspiracy to not do it.  It has gone on for ages.  Sure enough, here they come, screaming at the top of their lungs, “Daddy, there’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!  There’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!”  Really, I mean give me a break. Is that the best that you have?

I try to believe my children, but this was just a little far-fetched. I started the usual parent stuff, “There’s no snake in the bathroom. You better get right upstairs and get ready for bed.”  There were probably a couple of mild threats that included something about the wrath of God but all to no avail.  They were sticking to their story.  So, off we went to find the nonexistent snake.  Whoever heard of such a thing?  Snake in the bathroom.  Right. Sure.

So, we all tramp upstairs, with David and Sue in tow, to see this mysterious serpent.  I went first not because I was bravest but because Judy made me.  I looked around and thankfully there was no snake.  Then the girls gave us one more small detail.  “It’s in the toilet, Daddy” they said.  Right. Sure.  I tentatively walked over and took a look.  No snake. Yay and then one of the girls said, “Look under the seat, Daddy.”  Well, by now I was sure this was a grand plan to avoid bedtime.  And then I lifted the seat.

There, neatly conformed to the shape of the bowl was indeed a snake.  Yes, he was only about 15 inches long but to me it looked like a giant anaconda and about that time they weren’t the only ones screaming.  I dropped the seat, and we all left the bathroom to formulate a plan of attack.  It involved a clothes hanger and a brave soul.  I was elected.  We got a clothes hanger and straightened it out.  The plan was to lift the lid, push the snake into the water and flush. The snake would be sucked down the drain. Crisis solved.  So, I tip-toed over to the toilet, lifted the lid and poked the snake.  It fell into the water, and I flushed.

I learned three things about snakes at that moment.  First, they are very buoyant.  Secondly, they swim really well. In an act of desperation, I even tried to hold the snake under the water with the clothes hanger.  Lesson number three.  They can hold their breath for a reall, long time.  There was only one thing left to do.  Call Bob, our friend and neighbor.  Bob was a biology teacher, so he knew about snakes. Bob liked snakes.  Bob wasn’t afraid of snakes.  And Bob lived right down the street. So we made the call and in a few minutes Bob came to the rescue.  He assured us that it was harmless, and he reached down and picked up the snake.  Bob was a little weird like that.

The girls went to bed and David and Sue went on to take the job at the church. At least they knew we obviously didn’t practice snake handling. For years…Rebecca rarely visited the bathroom without first checking under the seat. Judy and I learned to be a bit less suspicious of our girls’ bedtime antics. And Bob…well although he lives an hour away, I keep his number of speed-dial.  It always pays off to have a friend like Bob.

I keep God on speed dial too.  In all the craziness that night there was a lot of praying going on.  And like Bob, actually even better than Bob, God is always there. He doesn’t care if it something crazy like a snake in the toilet or a pandemic in the world…He can handle it. God tells us in the Bible that when we get in trouble, when we don’t know what to do, or when we simply don’t know the answer, give Him a holler and He will come to the rescue. You know, I’m glad for friends like Bob. I’m especially glad for a Friend like Jesus. He’s never surprised when I call…never too busy…never annoyed.  He just whispers, “No problem, Dewayne. Take it easy. You can rest in me. I’ve got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful

Sacred Cows

See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are!” 1 John 3:1

That can’t be good. The noise came from the church sanctuary and it sounded like trouble—with a capital “T.”  Being a pastor is one of the most challenging and interesting vocations there is.  I have been walking this path for the past 38 years and there is nothing like it.  I’ve experienced the lowest of valleys and the highest mountain peaks and that’s just on Monday morning!  Of course, if you think being a pastor is challenging, you should be a “PK” or pastor’s kid.

PK’s grow up in a fishbowl world.  Many people expect them to be perfect. They are held to standards that are unfair but that can lead to some pretty good stories.  And you know I love a good story.  So one evening, my wife and a couple of the ladies from our church were working in the children’s department.  I believe they were painting and papering.  We had been at the church long enough to build some great relationships but not quite long enough to guarantee survival of “the big one.”

“The big one” is a variety of things that you don’t mess with in a church.  They are also called “sacred cows.”  Now these things don’t moo or eat grass. I think the phrase must refer back to India where cows are worshipped.  Mess with a cow in India and someone is going to mess with you.  One of the jobs of a pastor is to learn what and where the cows are for a church and then avoid them.  It is also the job of the pastor to keep his kids from messing with one.  And that’s where the trouble started.

Judy and the ladies were working hard that evening and not paying much attention to the girls.  My two girls were there as well as the daughter of one of the ladies. The moms were working hard and the kids were playing.  Life was good.  People were happy…and then.  I’m not sure exactly in what order these two events happened but they were very close together.  The first was the sound of kids playing.  It was the sound of kids playing in a swimming pool.  However, First Baptist didn’t have a swimming pool.  But it did have a baptistry…the kind big enough to swim in.

The second sound was not a happy sound.  The second sound was the sound someone makes when a sacred cow is being touched.  The second sound was the sound that pastor’s really, really, don’t like to hear.  This one sounded something like this, “WHO is PLAYING in the baptistry?” Apparently one of the trustees (who was a good friend) had come into the sanctuary and discovered what the moms had also just discovered.  What they discovered …was that the kids had discovered …that the church had a built-in swimming pool.  It was not a pretty scene.

Friend or not, he was really, really upset.  The pastor’s kids were swimming in the baptistry and that was definitely a no-no.  I could hear the cow mooing loud and clear. The moms were traumatized (only later would they laugh), and me, I was just trying to still be the pastor the next day.  But it turns out we had an ace in the hole.  Now an “ace in the hole” is a bit of information or a resource held back until the proper time.  It was time.  Just about then…the trustee’s five-year old granddaughter stuck her head up from the baptistry and smiled at her grandfather. Now it still wasn’t pretty. The kids were still messing with a cow, however, the relationship one of swimmers had with the trustee changed everything.

The bottom line is the kids had a nice swim but never had another one in the indoor poor.  My friend, the trustee, showed grace but I’m sure only after a lecture about indoor swimming pools in Baptist churches.  And me…I got to keep being the pastor. It really turned out to be a great story and over time it just got more and more humorous.  Several years later it was my privilege to officiate at my friend’s funeral. We had many wonderful memories to share that day but I do believe the story of the baptistry topped them all.  Grace and relationships have a way of doing that. It works when kids touch sacred cows and it works when we sin.

You see, when it comes to us and God, we do far worse than touch the sacred…we violate His law and trample His holiness.  It is an ugly scene but then He does the amazing.  He offers forgiveness, He offers grace, unmerited favor, to any person willing to put their faith not in themselves but in His Son Jesus.  That faith results in this incredible relationship where we can call Him Father and He calls us His kids.  The Bible says it like this, “See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children—and we are!” How about that?  He is willing and able to forgive any sin—even swimming in the baptistry—if we believe.  Amazing. So when you find yourself in a hot mess with God, just remember the big truth about grace and relationships.  The first makes the second possible.  And when you get the second you get everything you need.  A place to crawl up and rest and a dearest Daddy that is big enough to conquer your biggest fear and forgive your biggest sin.  After all, He’s got this.