Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

Worth Every Mile

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was crazy but worth every mile.  For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened.  While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know for us that was a good time.  Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.

I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service.  To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.

Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand.  We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic.  That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song.  It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.

There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills.  That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause.  Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average.  As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.

By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am.  1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour.  I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now.  Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning?  Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.

Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am.  We were tired.  We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter.  We were there.  We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity.  There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe.  Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all.  Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”

Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day.  The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was.  We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot.  And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic.  Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore.  And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.

While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too.  Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks.  Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As always, he was spot on.  Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do.  And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Father's Day, friends, Grace, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it causes me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades viewpoint (uh, plus three for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 46 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne