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, life, Scripture, thankful

Ready. Set. Fire.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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