Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Corned Beef Hash

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?”     Luke 11:11

We were close friends from the start.  Although I was too young to remember, I think it must be true.  I think my very first word must have been…wait for it…”food”.  Then I think my first sentence was, “I’m hungry.”  I’m trying to say that food and I go way back and now I’m an expert on all things food.  Well, wait, maybe not all things.  You see I was raised on good, common food.  Our menu included things like meatloaf and egg salad sandwiches (aka Easter egg salad sandwiches).  There were some things that Mama cooked up, that to a kid, were kinda hard to swallow…no pun intended.  One of those things was tripe (aka cow’s stomach). We called it the “eternal meat” because it was like chewing rubber.  Take one big bite and two weeks later you swallowed.  Definitely not my favorite.

But, one of the best things that Mama cooked was something called corned beef hash. For that she would cook up some potatoes and then add some corned beef.  I’m not sure why they call it corned beef but I don’t think it has anything to do with corn.  At any rate…it was one of my favorites…well, sorta.  You see, there was a trick to this corned beef thing and Mama knew it and…I knew it.

In the world of Mama’s corned beef there were really two kinds—and they were worlds apart.  First there was fried corned beef hash and then there was boiled corned beef hash.  The fried hash was just as it sounds.  Mama would first fry up some home fried potatoes.  These, friend, are what potatoes were made for…crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  And if they happened to be fried in lard—well, that was even better.  Then, she would add the corned beef and well, it was pretty much heaven.  I always liked mine smothered in ketchup.  But sometimes she would trick me.  I would ask what was for supper and she would say, “corned beef hash” and for me that had to mean fried because that was the only way it was supposed to be.   It’s kinda like grits-salt, pepper and butter is the only way grits can be grits.

But then, she had an ace up her sleeve.  Sometimes, she made boiled corned beef hash.  That involved boiling and (in my opinion) wasting a pot full of potatoes.  She boiled them till they were almost like mush.  Then she would add the corned beef to the pot and that was it and let me tell you all the ketchup in the world couldn’t redeem what water had done to what was meant to be fried.  I’m still not sure why she fried most of the time but still boiled others.  All I know I was always disappointed because when it comes to corned beef hash—fried always topped boiled.

With some things one way always tops another and that’s how it is with corned beef hash. And never is that truer than when it comes to God and religion.  People today get confused.  You see, God is God and religion is mankind’s frail attempt to reach God.  Try as you like, the only way to know God is by knowing His Son Jesus.  And that’s really cool because His way is a sure deal and man’s way is a sure failure.  Chances are you know someone who was or is totally disappointed in religion and I suppose some folks would speak of their disappointment in God.  But when we understand who He is and what He wants to do for us—that disappointment fades.

Like I said I was always disappointed when Mama boiled something that was clearly meant to be fried. And I’ve been around church world long enough to know that religion always disappoints but God never does.  I’m learning to trust Him and then believe Him even when that means things didn’t turn out the way I wanted or hoped.  His way is the better way.  If I don’t see it now…I will later.

One time Jesus was talking about prayer and said that a father would never give a snake to his son who asked for a piece of fish.  Nope…not gonna happen.  With God the fried things are always fried and even when we get boiled hash…well, we can trust that at the time, that is the best thing for us.  I like that sacred assurance just like I know, I know, that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Forty-Five Years Ago

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

It was forty-five years ago today.  My life has always been steeped in church, God, and stuff.  I think my older brother had something to do with that.  Dad tended to be a CEO attender—you know—Christmas and Easter only.  But even with that said there were other ways that he clearly showed that he and God were on good speaking terms.  Two of my favorite memories are of him praying.  One time he was down on his knees leading us as a family in prayer.  He never stood taller.  The other happened when I came home late from a date and found him talking to our Dearest Father, hands clasped and head bowed.

Now, mama was more faithful at church except when she hit a bump or two. She liked to attend and she would take us with her.  No questions asked.  She sang, she led one of the girl’s classes, and she too was on good terms with Jesus.  But there were a couple of times when her heart got hurt and she would sit out for a little while.  It was then my oldest brother would take over the taxiing job and make sure I got to church.  To this day I am grateful that he did that.  Because of him habitually taking me, there has never been a time when I didn’t go to church.  That was good but what happened forty-five years ago was far better.

Right out of high school I joined the Air Force and ended up stationed in Valdosta, Georgia at Moody Air Force Base.  Since church was such a regular part of my calendar I made it a point to go—a lot.  One Wednesday night I decided to go to one of the local churches.  So I got there, opened the side door and right across the room was Judy Allen.  She was beautiful and right there and then I decided I liked that church—a lot.

I started attending regularly for two reasons.  It was what I was used to doing and Judy was there.  We started dating right away and before too long we were engaged. She was probably too young and I was probably too old but, hey, that is sometimes the way of love.  Well, in June of 1975 she met someone else—another guy.  Fortunately for me it was Jesus.  She, like me, was raised in church but she discovered that going to church and knowing Jesus were two entirely different things.  Jesus waltzed into her life and she was like a new person—an even better person—better than I deserved for sure.

Well, a few months went by and at church one morning, October 26 to be exact, I bumped into the same Man she had met.  Unexpectedly the pastor told a story about a man who had gone to church all his life and then realized he had never met Jesus.  You might say he was religious, but not a Jesus follower.  When I heard about him, I realized that was me—I was the same way—way too religious and way short on knowing Jesus as my best friend. That morning in Valdosta, Georgia at about 10:45 in the morning I met Jesus and my life changed forever.  Jesus didn’t make me perfect that day but He sure made me forgiven.  He put me on a new road and well, it has been amazing.

So, for forty-five years I have walked with Jesus and here I sit today, a pastor for thirty-eight  of those years and writing stories.  And Judy, well, in June of 1976, we decided to walk together and we just never stopped.  Me, Judy, and Jesus—it has been quite the journey. For the past forty-five years, every year, I have celebrated two birthdays.  The first is January 6, the day I was physically born.  But I also celebrate October 26, the day I met Jesus and was spiritually born.

Every time I write a story I love to put a big truth in it about God.  Well this story is a bit different—this time the story is Jesus and what He did for me and wants to do for you.  Remember, don’t make the mistake I did—confusing religion and church with Jesus.  They are not the same—He is a lot better.  He said that we could know the truth and the truth would set us free.  Well, the truth is He loves you, no matter what, more than you can imagine.  The truth is, He wants you to trust Him, to rest in Him.  The truth is He’s got this.  Trust me, I know.

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

“Curse God– And Die”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7

Rule number one—it is never a good time to curse God.  Tonight, as I sat out by a fire crackling in our outdoor fireplace, my neighbors were teaching their young son how to ride a bike.  He is a quite the young man and he did well.  Judy went over to help encourage him.  There were cheers and yells as he took off and rode maybe fifty yards or more before he “gently” crashed in the grass.  It all took me back almost sixty years.

I was about seven years old.  I’m thinking that I had already mastered the bike riding thing, though I can’t be certain.  For one reason or another, I decided I wanted to ride my brother’s 26 inch Schwinn bicycle.  Now, if in fact I had already learned to ride a bike and this was just a new challenge—then that’s pretty cool.  If I hadn’t mastered riding any bike—well, then this was a recipe for disaster.  The bike was obviously way too big for me, but I was determined.

We had a road that ran in front of our house and that was where I was going to attempt this daring feat.  Unlike my little neighbor next door, mom and dad weren’t there nor were any of my brothers and sisters.  It was just me—and God.  So, the best I could, I straddled the mammoth bicycle and promptly fell over.  I got just a little mad.  I tried it once again and this time the bike rolled forward a few feet and once again—it fell over—on me.  I got just a little madder.  By now I am muttering to myself.  I’m sure it included “stupid bike.”

The third or fourth try, by now I had lost count, resulted in just another in a series of crashes.  The frustration and anger finally boiled out.  I shook my fist at God and yelled something like, “God, why won’t you help me.”  What followed next is blurred in my memory, but I am pretty sure it came out something like, “God, I hate you.”  It was spoken—it was shouted—hurled at the God of the universe.  As far as I know it was the only time I ever cursed God.  Somehow, in my mind, all of this was God’s fault.  It didn’t matter that the bike was way too big for me or that I lacked the experience to ride such a large bike.  All that mattered was in my mind God had intentionally let me down—literally—at least four times.

It was about then that I heard a voice.  It wasn’t God, but that probably would have been appropriate since I had just major offended him.  It was a female voice.  At first I thought it might have been Mrs. Job.  If you remember the story she told her husband, “Why don’t you just curse God and die.”  But it wasn’t Mrs. Job.  No, it was Mrs. Taylor—Mrs. Alston Taylor to be exact and I was about to die. From behind the hedge that encircled our front yard came, “Dewayne Taylor, I heard that.  Don’t you ever talk to God like that again.”  When mama called you by your first and last name at the same time—you knew you were in trouble.  When she was talking about disrespecting God—you knew you were in double trouble—with her and with God.  I was in deep weeds.

Well, once again the end of the story fades from memory.  I am sure it didn’t involve me winning the war with the bike.  I am pretty sure that there was more than a verbal rebuke from mama.  I am certain that I learned a big lesson about God that day.  The lesson is that God demands and deserves our respect—whether we are seven or seventy.  The Bible teaches us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” The fear that the Bible talks about is not the kind of fear when you think God is about to zap you—even if you deserve it.  No, it is talking about respect. God is worthy of our respect—He is deserving of our respect. Period.

The verse goes on to say that a foolish person despises wisdom and discipline. Another verse I’ve grown fond of is Psalm 14:1. It says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  I mean, I think it is pretty foolish to write God off, but there is something more here.  The words, “there is” were added by the English translators to make the verse flow a little smoother.  The verse in the Hebrew literally says, “The fool says in his heart, No, God.”  Whoa.  It is a bad idea to tell mama no, but it is really, a bad idea to tell God no.  We need to write that one down.

When I told Judy what I was going to write about today, she asked, “So what did God have to do with you and the bike?”  That’s a great question.  But you know and I know we blame God for just about everything we don’t like—including when we fall off a bike, even one we had no business trying to ride. So, let’s learn a big lesson from seven year old Dewayne.  One, don’t try something that is clearly a recipe for disaster. I mean trying new and adventurous things is awesome—but keep them in reason.  And, never, and I mean never—curse God—especially if your mama is anywhere around.  Just kidding.  That is never a good idea.  After my bike deal—maybe after your bike deal, when we are worn out and worn down, let’s pause and take a rest—in Him.  And then let’s stop muttering and start whispering, “He’s got this.” He always does—in His way and in His time.