Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Humpty Dumpty and Me

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” John 14:6

Some things never change. As we were growing up, we all learned various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Some were funny, some serious, and some a little bizarre.  One of my favorites was Humpty Dumpty.   Why?  I think because his story could have easily been our story—after all, we’ve all fallen off a wall at one time or another. I love the story too because what didn’t happen for old Humpty Dumpty, can happen for us.

If there had been a headline that day it might have read something like this, “Local Egg Takes a Tumble.” The story would begin with, “Apparently a well-known and respected egg, Humpty Dumpty, decided to take a rest on top of a wall just outside of town. While sitting there he lost his balance, fell off the wall and was shattered into several pieces. Fortunately for Mr. Dumpty there were witnesses who immediately called 911. Paramedics, along with representatives from the local government, were quickly on the scene. It is reported that local clergy were also on scene, though they didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, no one was unable to put Mr. Dumpty back together again.”

What a sad tale! There he lay–his life in pieces–kinda like a lot of folks today. You would have thought the local citizenry, government, and churches would have been sympathetic but no. First, some questioned why an egg was on the wall in the first place. After all, given his rounded bottom he was certainly a high risk. Second, he was in a fragile state–in fact, he lived in a fragile state. Others blamed the builders of the wall. If the wall had only been six inches high, he wouldn’t have suffered such massive fractures. Others blamed the weather service because they didn’t put out a high wind warning that day for eggs on walls. And the church–well, they said a respectable egg should have been in church, for it was a Sunday.

Well on and on it went, and in the end–Mr. Dumpty was still broken. You know, some things never change. When sin entered the world Adam blamed God, (God because He gave Adam the woman & Eve because she gave him the fruit), Eve blamed the snake, and the snake? Well, he just smiled. It wasn’t a time for finger pointing then, nor is it now.  For all around us are Humpty Dumptys…broken lives in a broken world.

But then, along comes God. God made the very first promise of a Rescuer, a Redeemer, and a Savior way back in Genesis 3. One day the Redeemer would come and provide the cure for sin–His own death on a Roman cross–and then come back to life thus defeating death forever. And the snake well, he would be cast into a very hot fire for a very long time.

You see, I am so glad that God is more interested in redemption than blaming. He is still inviting people, all people to come home. Scared people, sick people, broken people, mean people, and nice people–all get the same invitation–come home. And the path is always the same. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It’s not religion, it’s not good works, and it’s not winning by out-blaming the person next to you. It is grace.

The world could use a little good news don’t you think? So today why not share some? When you see the next scared person, the next broken person, the next difficult person (and it might be in the mirror), just assure them that God loves them and that regardless of their past they can come home. Tell them to rest in Him. Why? He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Thanksgiving, wisdom

Bring on the Gravy

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

It can make good things better!  Thanksgiving is disappearing quickly in the rearview mirror.  Even in the COVID mess this year it was good to get together with family and rejoice and remember.  I know from this side of the fence the Taylor cooks are off the scale good.  Our menu, at least the one that lists the side dishes, is almost set in stone.  Mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, strawberry salad and other salads that makes you like salads, Apple pie…well you get the idea.  There is one thing that plays a minor role at our Thanksgiving table…gravy.

Now I am a Southern boy and gravy was a big part of my eating life.  Mama would regularly make both brown and white gravies for our supper and they were incredible.  I remember one time I was reminded that you can have too much of a good thing.  She had made a roast and one of the things I loved was to take two (one wouldn’t do) slices of bread and then smother, no drown, the bread in gravy.  Well, one time it got me.  I guess all the goodness in the gravy was too much and I got sick, real sick to my stomach.  It wasn’t pretty.

Mama also made a great giblet gravy at Thanksgiving.  She would take all those things that are tucked inside the turkey when you buy it, cut them up in tiny pieces and put them in her gravy.  Yup…it was incredible.  That’s when I began to learn the value of gravy.  It could take the driest dressing (not my Mama’s mind you) and make it the best dressing in the world.  It worked even better on leftovers.  You go back later that afternoon, fill your plate for round two of the feast, warm up the gravy and let her fly.  The dressing, the potatoes and the turkey all were reborn with a little gravy.

Gravy also can play the role of redeemer with biscuits.  Now even the best biscuits almost always need a little help to become great.  It might be a smothering of butter or butter and honey or syrup and good becomes great.  By far the greatness soul mate of a biscuit is a flood of good sausage gravy.  On my goodness—that combination is it’s own food group.  Any good restaurant that serves breakfast is always sure to include that in its offerings. The bottom line is that gravy makes things better.

I know something else that does the same thing—even more so.  That is grace.  Grace is when we choose to extend something good to someone that doesn’t deserve it.  It might be an act of kindness, a measure of forgiveness, or a kind word or two. As a pastor I know people have extended a measure of grace when they commented on some of my sermons.  “Best sermon this year, preacher!”  Well, truth be known it wasn’t that good—they were showing grace.

Now hear this.  Just like a good gravy can make ordinary or less than extraordinary food taste incredible—grace can do the same thing.  Families are stronger, relationships are better, teams at work are more productive when grace gravy is poured all over them.  You know this COVID thing is fracturing relationships like crazy.  It is dividing families, friends and, yes, churches.  I think we need to pour some gravy—some grace—all over it.  If we don’t, we are going to have some scars that will take a long time to heal.  If that happens and when this thing is all over, we might be able to heal, but the scars will be forever visible.

If you are a Jesus follower then you should be a grace expert.  You know that God extended grace, His unmerited favor, to you and forgave all your failures, sins, and warts.  If you understand redemption correctly, you know you didn’t deserve it—He just did it because of His love for broken people.  Grace makes the impossible possible.  Grace, like a good gravy, can redeem the worse and restore the driest.  God talks a whole lot about grace in His Book.  I encourage you to Google it and be amazed at grace—God’s grace.  It is so amazing they even wrote a song about.  Perhaps you’ve heard it—Amazing Grace.

Sometimes when I order at a restaurant, I will order my gravy on the side. Let’s be honest—not every place can make good gravy.  But when it comes to God’s grace don’t ever get it on the side.  Just ask God to pour it on heavy—flood the plate of your life. The Book says that through faith in Jesus we have redemption through His death on the cross.  When we believe that God forgives our sins through His grace then He lavishes it on us.  Wow and bring on the gravy—bring on the grace. If your life is like a dry biscuit, take a break and ask God to pour on the grace.  And if you are overwhelmed because of this COVID mess and its left you like so much dry turkey, ask God to pour on grace and you will soon be revived because…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life

A Really Bad Idea

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in faithful love.” Psalm 103:8

It was just a bad idea. Each of us have times when we do something and from the get go we know it was just a bad idea.  Yesterday’s story of me at age seven trying to ride a 26 inch bicycle was just one of many.  And these bad ideas usually bear the fruit of bad endings.

I have a really good friend who manages a local restaurant.  Before COVID, we would get together once a week and have breakfast at the restaurant. Since COVID we still try and get together for coffee and perhaps a pastry fresh out of the oven.  Suffering isn’t all bad, is it?  Well, I was famous for ordering different things for breakfast.  One was the delicious “preacher stack.”  It consisted of a slice of toast, an over-easy egg, a slice of cheese, a couple of slices of soft bacon, a small serving of hash browns (cooked crispy, of course), a second egg and finally the crowning touch, a smattering of gravy. For variety the hash browns were sometimes replaced with grits. Now, let me tell you, that was “shoot that thing” good. I do believe I might be the Rembrandt of breakfast.  Sometimes.

You see, one time, about midway through the fall season, I got an idea.  Unfortunately, it was a very bad idea.  Now the problem with bad ideas is that sometimes they look good from one angle and horrible from the other.  Well, this time I looked from the wrong angle.  I told my friend, “Jeremy, I have an idea.  I think I want to try chili and eggs for breakfast in the morning.”  Now being the good friend that he was, he tried and tried to get me to change course.  But at that time and from that angle it really sounded good.  The key word there is “sounded.”

So the next morning Jeremy cooked up a batch of chili and I was served chili and eggs for breakfast.  The first and second bite wasn’t too bad—weird, but not too bad.  From there it went down hill and by the time I was done—I was done.  I felt like I had swallowed a 12 pound bowling ball and that bowling ball stayed with me all day.  In fact, it was a couple of days before I felt half normal.  It was a very, very bad idea.  He tried to warn me, but no.  Oh boy, just the thought of chili and eggs makes my eyes cross.

Well, today I had a nice, innocent bad idea.  I usually walk in the mornings but Judy and I decided to walk in the afternoon.  That was ok—unusual, but ok.  And that wasn’t the bad idea.  We were going to walk on the bike trail so I thought I would wear an old pair of trail running shoes I had in the closet.  “Why?” Well, I liked the way they looked and I liked the way they laced up (they had these cool speed laces) but that’s where the love affair ended.  They weren’t very comfortable and the inside of the heel had long lost its padding. All that was left was a crater where the padding used to be surrounded by rough edges. Everything said, “Don’t wear those shoes.” Well, you know what I did. I wore the shoes anyway and it was indeed a very bad idea.

I had planned on only walking a couple of miles but ended up doing 3.6.  Somebody say “wow.”  Well, at about the 1.8 mile turn around point I noticed that the back of my left heel was starting to burn—to hurt.  Remember the padding that was missing—well, those rough edges that remained were now slowly eating into my heel.  And with every step it got worse.  I was almost two miles from the car and it hurt, and it hurt, and it hurt.  I found myself saying over and over again, “This was a really bad idea.”  The problem was I realized it just a little too late.  Well, about 10,000 steps later, I got back to the car and the shoes and I parted company—forever.  Even sitting there I said it again, “That was a really bad idea.”

Well, in a while Judy got back to the car from her walk.  As she came over to where I was sitting and noticed I had my shoes off. She made a comment about resting.  I said, “Judy, do you remember the time I ate the chili and eggs?”  She said, “Well, yes, but what has that got to do with today?”  I said, “That was a really, bad idea and wearing these stinking shoes today was a really bad idea.” To make matters worse, when we had started walking I commented how much I liked the shoes and she remembered that.  “But Dewayne, I thought you said you liked them?”  Well, I liked the way they looked, I liked they way they laced up, but boy, I didn’t like the way they felt after walking.  And trust me—that outweighed all the looks and all the cool laces.

Well, I wanted to tell you this story for a couple of reasons. First, don’t, do not, eat chili and eggs.  What it does to your insides requires the intervention of the EPA. If you eat chili and eggs be prepared for a period of quarantine. Be prepared to camp in the “valley of the shadow of death.” It. Is. A. Bad. Idea.  And if you are going to walk, remember to pick your shoes based on what is important not what is intriguing or flashy.  At about the two mile point you will thank me. Trust me, I know.

One thing that I really like about the Bible is that it is filled with people just like me.  People who didn’t always listen to God and people who ate chili and eggs and wore the wrong shoes.  Real, live, people who didn’t always make the best choices. The thing I like about God is that He is so loving, patient and kind.  Even when Adam and Eve ate “chili and eggs” in the garden and then wore the “wrong shoes” to cover it all up—He still loved them and still provided a way for them to be forgiven.  They tried to do it their way, but God didn’t throw them under the bus and start over. And guess what?  He doesn’t throw us under the bus either, and I am thankful. When we come to Him with our “chili and eggs,” “wrong shoes,” whining and complaining about how we got the “blisters” in our life, He is patiently waiting.

He is always there for us…bad ideas and all.  You will find the Whisper whispering warnings, “don’t got there,” and encouraging you to “go the right way” and “do the right things”.  That’s just the way He is.  You know He could have carried me back to the car yesterday but I think there was a lesson that I needed to learn and a story I needed to tell. I finished the walk limping a little, but also a little wiser.  As I sat there resting in Him I decided no more chili and eggs and no more worn out, flashy shoes. And the next time  I find myself two miles from the car—well, I’ll just remember, He’s got this.

Posted in life, Mother's Day, Scripture

Mother’s Day- Redemption

“Jesus told him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Redemption.  It’s one of my favorite words.  One week ago, I wrote a story about Mother’s Day and my feeble attempt to honor the mother of our children.  It was a story of good intentions with a not so good conclusion. It was a story that should have been about honoring but was really about muttering.  It was a story about what was instead of what could have been…should have been.  But, well, it turns out it wasn’t the end of the story.

So, without retelling the whole story (see “Mother’s Day—The Hard Way, May 11, 2020 on gritswithgrace.com) let’s just say I lost a blessing.  Judy asked for a simple Mother’s Day gift and I fumbled the ball.  I did it but with some (ok, a lot) of muttering.  The day ended good with a great hike together and my receiving a reasonable measure of grace.  The next day, Becca, our oldest daughter suggested a trip to Pigeon Forge for a few days as recompense.  That seemed reasonable and doable and is in the planning stages.  But there’s more.

It is the time of year when ladies change their purses.  I know Judy has a dark red one that she uses in winter and a cute (did I just say “cute?”) one for spring.  Well, the cute one for spring has seen its last hurrah.  It is faded like an old leaf on the ground in late fall.  She told me she was looking for a replacement but couldn’t find “the one.”  It had to be a certain kind, it had to be the same color as last year’s, and it had to be a particular design.  She said, “I can’t find what I want.  I guess they just don’t make it.” What she was really saying was, “Here’s a chance for redemption, big boy.”

I jumped on this like “white on rice.”  I like a challenge and love redemption.  Now, I don’t know a thing about purses.  Most guys don’t do purses though some have a “man-bag.” This guy doesn’t do either.  But I do know about the promised land…Ebay.  So, I got my iPhone out, clicked on the icon and entered eBay land.  I tried several key searches. I quickly found out that whoever this Vera Bradley person is, she makes a lot of purses in a lot of designs and in lots of colors.  But I was determined…I was seeking redemption.

Well, Judy wanders in, sits down and together we continue the search.  By the time she got there, I was close.  I could smell it; I just couldn’t taste it.  And then it happened.  There it was. Vera Bradley, coral floral, cross-body purse. The right brand, the right color and the right design. She wondered if it could be true.  She said she would believe it when she could see it, hold it, touch it.  The Saturday after Mother’s Day it came in the mail in all its glory. She saw it, she held it, she touched it. Game. Set. Match.

Her smile was from ear to ear and so was mine.  Her happiness was so evident and so was mine.  She couldn’t believe her prize was in her hands and her “prince” had brought home the bacon.  Oh, I was redeemed all right. The epic failure was gone…replaced by the laurels of “coral floral” victory! Then I said, “Wait…I’ve heard this story before.”  It is the story of God and me…of God and you.

You see, because of our sin, our failures, we were in a hot mess.  We were separated from God and there was no fixing it.  It was epic fail 101.  Then God made a way—the way for rescue, for restoration, for redemption.  And it’s not unlike my Mother’s Day story.  I searched for the one thing that would make redemption possible and found it. And we do the same.  We long for the one thing.  And it isn’t religion. It isn’t being good.  It isn’t stopping a bad habit or starting another.  It is grace.  It is forgiveness.  It is Jesus.

You see, Jesus is not a religion…we have enough of that already. As Jesus said, He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  His death and resurrection made it possible for anyone to come home to God.  He makes it possible for this epic failure to call God, “Father.” Paul, in Colossians 1:13-14, put it this way, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Well, I’m glad the story didn’t end with part one.  I’m glad there was a part two. I’m glad for redemption.  And your story never has to end with only a part one.  Whether it is coming home for the first time or coming back home another time, we will always find Him waiting with open arms and a warm embrace. Guess what?  Last Monday I was ok…Judy still loved me.  She’s like that.  This Monday, well, she thinks I hung the moon. She’s like that too.  Today, God waits to welcome you home and guess what?  No, He doesn’t think you hung the moon…He did that.  But He does love you to the moon and back.  So, let go and let Him hold you.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.