The Quality of Your Faith

28 10 2018

Dr. David Jeremiah spoke of people of weak faith who might say, “Well, I’ve tried everything else; I guess I’ll try prayer.” Faith should be our default mode and it cannot be quantified…either you have faith, or you don’t. It can, however, be qualified, or made stronger. What is the quality of your faith? When the Apostles asked Jesus to increase their faith, Jesus told them at Luke 17:6, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” Jesus was telling them they could accomplish great things, even with a tiny bit of faith. Having more faith doesn’t equate to greater accomplishments. It’s like exercising your body. There are over 700 muscles in the human body. When you lift weights, you don’t get 800 muscles, but you make the muscles you already have stronger. David Jeremiah said, “We learn faith by stretching our faith muscles.” When we exercise our faith, we don’t get more faith; but, the faith we have becomes stronger and, eventually, seeking God becomes second nature rather than an afterthought.

 

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First Date

20 10 2018

Yesterday morning, after my wife got out of bed and stumbled zombie-like into the den, I told her happy anniversary. Fully aware we had just celebrated our wedding anniversary in August, her gaze suddenly went from “wake me when it’s time for breakfast” to “your senility is showing.” I reminded her it was fifty years ago we had our first date. She was less than overwhelmed. Maybe she just needed coffee.

 

Not many people, I would suppose, celebrate a first date anniversary, especially after 50 years! And, as far as I know, Hallmark hasn’t come out with a first date anniversary card. I guess most people who have been married for 47 years may not even remember their first date; but, I do. In fact, I remember the first time I laid eyes on my wife-to-be. It was the first day of our junior year of high school and I walked into Coach Perry’s Home Room doing what most of the other boys were doing-scoping out the girls who would share class with me over the next 9 months. After all, I was a sixteen-year-old walking sack of hormones. All were familiar faces with whom I had shared classes throughout my scholastic career, except for one. I saw one new face. A pretty face. She wore a navy-blue skirt with a light blue long-sleeved blouse and navy-blue shoes.

 

I suppose, one could argue this date of which I speak was more an outing than an actual date. You see, the local Lions Club sponsored an annual light bulb sale in which high school kids would volunteer to help by going door-to-door hawking bulbs to raise money to provide services for the blind. I asked her if she would like to go with me. Wondering to myself if I had a chance to really get to know this new girl, unbeknownst to me, she was already practicing her new signature…Mrs. Billy Taylor. Mrs. Carolyn Taylor. Carolyn M. Taylor. So, while it wasn’t a date in the truest sense, it was the night I fell in love. But what makes it significant enough to remember so vividly after half a century? Well, they say, every journey begins with the first step and that date was our first step. Without our first date there would have been no Brian, Eric or Mark, without which there would be no Rachel, Brooke or Amanda in our family and thus, no Anna, Abbie, Graecyn or Cody.

 

Then, it was just six says later when I asked her to go steady. “Go what?” the millennials might ask. Ahh, the lost art of courting. I guess in today’s vernacular, we were “hanging out.” But the die had been cast and the makings of a family were born.

 

I like to compare it to the most significant days in the history of the world-without Christmas there would be no Easter.





The Yankees’ Guide to Grilling

30 08 2018

Recently, I asked a Yankee friend of mine if he had plans for the Labor Day weekend. He said after he finished “mowing the lon and washing the cah,” he was planning to have family over for a “bahbecue.” If one couldn’t already tell by his Bostonian brogue, then a strong clue he was from the North was when he referred to this coming backyard bash as a barbecue. Still reeling from the barbecue misnomer, the telltale was when he said he would be putting his barbecue away for the season.  I asked him what season. “Bahbecue season,” he replied. I cringed. This was wrong in so many ways; I felt sorry for this culturally-challenged transplant and decided he needed help. If you plan to live in the South then you need to learn the lingo. As they say, “When in Rome…” So, for those above the Mason-Dixon Line and west of El Paso, who want to blend in, here is the guide to help you understand the art of the grill.

 

The Grill: First of all, let’s get the terminology correct. In the South, it’s called a grill, not a barbecue. And, it’s called grilling, not barbecuing. Barbecue is not a device on which you cook meat; it IS the meat after having been properly treated with your favorite sauce. The grill was invented for the purpose of cooking meat- meat which one coats with a dry rub of top-secret spices or slathers with sauce. It was not created for cooking Brussels sprouts, cream of wheat, or potato gnocchi. Meat!

 

The Gathering: Similarly, a barbecue is not a gathering of your closest friends for backyard drinks and ribs. Call it a party. Call it a get-together. Call it a congregation of your social network, but don’t call it a barbecue. Nothing screams Yankee louder than asking Bubba and Bubbette to come over for a barbecue Saturday night.

 

The Season: There is no barbecue season. There is a football season. There is hunting season. There is even grass cutting season and the farther north you live, the shorter the season. But the grill is like a calendar…it’s to be used year round regardless of where you live.

 

Yankees will hover for hours over a hole in the ice to catch a fish. They’ll sit all Sunday afternoon in a blowing snow with their favorite team’s logo painted on their bare chest. And yet, they can’t stand in the backyard for 20 minutes to cook a steak? I have shoveled six inches of snow out of my grill so I could cook chickens. I have stood on the deck cooking steaks when the temperature was 11 below. I have stood under an umbrella in the middle of a thunderstorm (not my brightest moment) to cook burgers, so this thing about cold and snow means nothing. “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” Man-up and light the coals.

 

The Fuel: Fuel of choice in the South is charcoal. It is permissible to use gas when short on time or if you run out of charcoal. But charcoal, newspaper and a chimney (or lighter fluid) make up your charcoal starting A-team. That means, you need two grills or a grill that allows you to use either gas or charcoal.

 

The Foil: Rookie mistake number one is to cover the grill top with aluminum foil. Sure, it makes clean-up a breeze, but, you’re blocking the smoke from getting to the meat. The meat gets its flavor when fat drips onto the hot

That’s not grilling. That’s frying!

glowing coals and the smoke that wafts through the neighborhood rises to envelop the meat. Don’t cover that grill top with aluminum foil. And don’t buy one of those grill mats, copper or otherwise. Those things are intended for suckers who don’t want to have to clean the gratings on the grill. You may as well throw those steaks in a frying pan. If you’re too lazy to clean the grill top once in a while then you should probably just sell your grill and make friends with someone who owns a grill or plan to spend a lot of time at Smokey Bones.

 

The Sauce: Sauce is personal. It is the one variable in grilling, other than the meat selection. You might want your ribs naked or you might prefer them to be drenched in a heavy layer of smoke-flavored sauce. Your sauce of choice might be a ketchup, mustard or vinegar-based sauce. But the thing to understand about sauce-in fact, the cardinal rule of sauce is, it cannot come from a bottle. You need to create your own signature sauce. Until you do, you can fake it by discretely pouring bottled sauce into a bowl or Mason jar so your guests will at least think it’s your own creation. Don’t forget to hide the empty bottle! Don’t have a Mason jar? No worries, any jar will do. You can use an empty mayonnaise jar (preferably Duke’s), salsa jar or peanut butter jar. For low-viscosity sauces such as a vinegar-based, a wine or liquor bottle works best. That way, you can control the amount of sauce you are dispensing by holding your thumb over the opening as you pour or sprinkle over the meat. An empty Makers Mark might be a bit pretentious but still not a bad choice. Warning: If using a wine bottle, avoid Sangria or anything from Little Black Dress or Moscato and other chick wines. Stick with something such as Gnarley Dude or Mad Dog.

 

You should also understand that a good steak can stand on its own; it doesn’t need to be bathed in sauce. Now, I like the flavor of A-1 as much as the next guy but save the A-1 for when you get cornered into eating something totally unpalatable such as when your host serves you scrapple with roasted Brussels sprouts. See: https://billtaylorcsp.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/internet-recipes-yech/. To mask the flavor of a good rib eye with a sauce is a sacrilege.

 

Following these tips will not make you a grilling expert, but at least you won’t stick out like a giraffe at a possum convention. Happy grill’n, ya’ll!





God is not a Sunday Morning God!

24 06 2018

II Chronicles  7:14- “If my children , who are called by my name, will humble themselves and Pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from Heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” 

 

My wife and I raised three sons-three great sons. As children, our sons were a joy. Even as toddlers, we could take them anywhere without fear of tantrums, outbursts or conniptions. We played Lego, sports and ran through the house shooting Nerf guns at each other. We vacationed and, in general spent quality time together as a family.

 

Not to say they were perfect. They would misbehave and we would parent. They would hurt and we would hurt. They sought advice and we always cherished the opportunity to pass on a bit of wisdom. Our sons always made us so proud and I thank God every day in my quiet time for allowing me to be their father. They are, and have always been, thoughtful, loving and grateful. And although each has grown and moved out to raise their own families, hardly a day goes by that I wouldn’t like to see, or at least speak with, my sons.

 

The Father Loves His Children

I believe God, our Father, is much like any other father. I believe He wants to see, or at least speak with, His children every day; yet, so many of His children see Him only as a God to keep in their back pocket to be pulled out as needed, like a fire extinguisher.

 

God is not a God of convenience whom we can call upon only when we are in trouble.

 

God is not a God of opportunity whom we call on only when there is something we want.

 

God is not a God of spectacle whom we visit only on Sunday mornings to demonstrate to others how “religious” we are.

 

Whether we realize it or not, God is in our lives 24-7. What does He ask in return?

  • “…humble themselves…”
  • “…pray and seek My face…”
  • “…turn from their wicked ways…”

 

Humble themselves: Realize and accept that no matter what you experience, no matter what you achieve, no matter how successful you may be, God is greater. God is omnipresent. There is nowhere He isn’t. After all, He made every corner of the universe. He is all-powerful. There isn’t anything He cannot do. He loves us with a love that cannot be measured. How can we be anything but humble when we come before the Lord?

 

Pray and seek My face: Take just a few minutes…two minutes each day to speak with God. Pray. Thank Him for all you have and the many ways in which you have been blessed. Spend five minutes reading Scripture and thinking about what you read.

 

Turn from your wicked ways: “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” (KJV) None of us is perfect, or ever can be, regardless of how hard we try. We can’t love a sinful world and still love God. If we want to please God, we must deny sinful temptations and turn to God.

 

God wants to share time with you. He wants to hear your voice. Make Him a part of your life every single day. Spend a little time speaking with Him and listening. It’s a dialogue and not a monologue. Enjoy the moments and let Him enrich your life.





Never Turn Your Back on an Imp!

20 06 2018

It was a year ago, almost to the day, I introduced you to my one and only grandson, Cody. The story (posted July

If you didn’t want me to bite it, you shouldn’t have left it where I can reach it.

2, 2017), you may recall, was to tell you about his pronouncement to the family, he had reached two-hood by climbing up the outside of the staircase at home. Moreover, the post was to expound on his perfection of boyhood as he is, still, the quintessential boy. No doubt, if you look up “boy” in Wiki or any other pedia, you’ll see Cody’s picture. Well, I guess, as he approaches his third birthday, he decided he wanted to say good-bye to two in proper fashion.

 

This past week, while at daycare, the ever-rambunctious Cody apparently became curious about the wall-mounted fire alarm and decided to give it a pull. Bells rang, teachers scurried, toddlers screamed, the building evacuated, and the fire department arrived to handle the “emergency!!” And, before he even gets into elementary school, Cody found himself in the principal’s office getting the first of what I am sure will be many lectures.

 

To quote my son in his text, “He’s already filled his resume with things like teaching the whole class how to spit,

Who puts fire alarms in a daycare where a 2-year old can reach them?

making his first girlfriend a preschool teacher, disrupting any serious moment with his class-clown antics, and jumping off a 4-feet [sic] tall playhouse when he was 2 because he said, ‘dats cool daddee.’”

 

My wife and I remember times when we longed for the day when our sons would get their payback. Well, for one son at least, that day has come…in spades! Sorry, son, but we didn’t mean for you to get a truck load all at once.

Child’s play!





The Ghost of Greta

10 03 2018

Puppy Greta

In spite of a preponderance of evidence and testimony from trustworthy sources, I have always been a bit skeptical about the existence of ghosts. Angels? Yes. But ghosts? No longer a skeptic! I am now a believer…at least as far as pets go.

 

In 2010 and again in 2011, I posted a couple of stories about our dog, Greta but don’t think I posted anything following her death in 2012-it was too painful to write. She had been diagnosed with cancer and we had no choice but to put her down. As anyone with a pet, particularly a dog, will tell you, she was like one of the family and it was so sad when she died. It took a very long time for my wife and me to get over her passing.

 

When we first brought her home as a 10 week-old puppy, I made the mistake of putting her on the bed that first night rather than force her to sleep alone in her bed on the floor. She decided that’s where she belonged and so that’s where she slept every night…lying against my stomach. During the night, she would move from that spot to another and this five-pound, long-haired miniature diva…I mean dachshund, would wake me up while stepping on top of me or across my legs as she sought a more comfortable spot.

 

About six months ago, I was awakened by a feeling that was very reminiscent of Greta stepping over my legs as she had done on so many nights. I decided it was just my wife moving about and causing the covers to move. But then it happened again. And again. And again. Finally, about a month ago, I mentioned it to my wife. I think she may have been a little skeptical herself and I can’t say as I blame her.

 

This morning (Sunday) at around 4:15, my wife got up to go to the bathroom. I usually get up around 3:30 or 4:00 except on weekends when I’ll sleep in until around six. So, when she returned to bed at 4:30, I was very much awake. Almost immediately, she went back to sleep. As I lay there, I soon noticed the sensation of movement and pressure against my right thigh, much like it felt when Greta would be settling in to get comfortable. I turned to my wife to tell her Greta was back but was dissuaded by her snoring (my wife’s not Greta’s). I decided she didn’t need to know that badly. But I lay there and the movement stopped. I then reached down toward my thigh where I had “felt her moving” and “scratched the back of her head.”  Immediately, the sensation returned and lasted only a couple of seconds. A minute or two passed and I reached down and did it again. Again, the sensation returned for a second or two. So, I lay there as I began to form this post in my mind and after a couple of minutes without feeling anything, I rolled over to my other side. Almost immediately, I felt her walking across my legs and between my feet just as she had always done.

 

If you’re too young to remember The Twilight Zone, then I suggest you Google and watch an episode or two. The host of the show, Rod Serling, once said, “There is nothing in the dark that isn’t there when the lights are on.” Well, if that’s true then there’s a five-pound long-haired miniature dachshund living on my bed day and night because, she is certainly there in the dark.





What’s Your Goliath?

10 02 2018

“The Lord is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and He knoweth them that trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

 

David faced a giant. Goliath was a career warrior who had been training to fight since he was a child. He was nine feet tall with the strength of a bear. The tip alone, on the spear he carried, weighed 15 pounds. And, his bronze helmet probably weighed as much as the scrawny David. Now, he stepped out onto the battlefield to challenge the Israelites, but, no one would come out to fight him. They knew there was none among them who could defeat this leviathan.

 

Along comes David, a skinny shepherd boy, with enough faith in God to move a mountain. We read at I Samuel 17:38 that, as Goliath started out across the expanse between the armies, David ran out to meet him. He wasn’t timid. He didn’t walk out or amble out. He ran out, without hesitation and with unspeakable confidence, to remove the head of this enemy of his people. You see, David knew something that neither Goliath nor anyone else knew-he knew God was with him. David knew, just as Joshua knew at the battle of Jericho, the victory was already his. Joshua 6:2 says, “And the Lord said unto Joshua, ‘See, I have given into thine hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valour.’” The battle had been won even before it began. Such was the situation for David. His faith in God told him that God had is back, to put it into today’s vernacular, and he would be victorious thanks to the power of God.

 

Everyone has a Goliath in his or her life. Mounting debt. Health problems. An addiction. A tragedy.  A difficult boss or strained relation with a friend or family member. If you believe God is the promised Messiah and you have accepted Him as personal Savior, He will help you overcome that obstacle. No giant is bigger than God. Oh, we’ll still have rough spots. We’ll still have struggles; but, He sends His angels to watch over and protect us. The battle is already won thanks to the Cross. Isn’t it comforting to know that no matter how hard life gets, there will come a time when we will spend each perfect day in the presence of God for eternity.

 

“The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.” Psalms 18:2