Convinced

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.–Romans 8:38-39


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Mommy’s Going Out of Town

You better watch out! You better not cry
You better not pout, I’m telling you why
Mommy’s going out–of town!

I’m making my list, checking it twice
Making sure we have plenty of chicken and rice
Mommy’s going out–of town.

Who’ll make them do their homework?
Who knows when they’ll awake?
Who knows if they’ve been bad or good?
Why, their Dad for goodness’ sake!

You better watch out! You better not cry
You better not pout, I’m telling you why
Mommy’s going out–of town!

I’m missing my family already, but looking forward to a great time of fellowship and sharing God’s Word with the women of Guilford Baptist Church in Sterling, VA. I’m so blessed to have a husband who is so unselfish, and who joyfully takes my load when I’m away. Add to that, two super responsible girls and a boy who takes seriously his role of helping Daddy take care of the family, and I swim in a sea of gratitude for the family the Lord has given me!


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20 Years and Counting…Come Rain or Come Shine


I’m not sure when we first heard this song, but it’s been “our song” for as long as I can remember. Many artists have their own rendition of this classic tune, but Dinah Washington brings it in this one! My favorite verse is the last one, when Dinah belts out:

“Days may be cloudy or sunny.
We’re in or we’re out of the money.
But I’m with you always.
I’m with you come rain or come shine.”

Boy, do we know about those days! But through the cloudy, down-to-our-last-dime days, the Lord’s faithfulness has shone through and I am grateful and still in love with my best friend! It’s been 23 years since Thabiti followed me around campus at NC State University freshman orientation weekend, asking for a date and for my number. It’s been 20 years of marriage to the love of my life, my best friend. I’m so grateful to the Lord for saving us, for uniting us, and for calling our family to gospel ministry. I love you Babe! Happy Anniversary!


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Starbucks is Selling Us (Costing Us) Hospitality

Tim Challies recently posted his reflections on Tim Chester’s new book A Meal With Jesus, which I am reposting below. His reflections interest me because I love showing hospitality to family members, church family and strangers; and I love to cook! I also share some of the concerns expressed in his blog post regarding “commercialized hospitality”. Please read his comments and be encouraged to invite someone to your home for dinner!

Tim Chester’s new book A Meal with Jesus recently showed up at my door and I’ve been quite taken by it. It’s a book about what seems a strange topic—sharing a meal. Yet there are many profound truths to be found here. Let me share a quote that I found particularly compelling.

In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putman reveals that there’s been a 33 percent decrease in families eating together over the last three decades. And more than half of those families are watching television as they eat together. Over the same period there’s been a 45 percent decline in entertaining friends. Growing up I would ask each Sunday, “Who’s coming for dinner today?” Not whether but who, because I knew my parents always would have invited someone. “In the typical American household, the average number of dinners eaten together is three per week, with the average length of dinner being 20 minutes.” Many homes no longer even have a dining room. We protect ourselves from outsiders, but our security systems and garden gates are our prisons, cutting us off from community. Instead we get our community vicariously through soap operas.Friends is a television program or a Facebook number, not people with whom we eat and laugh and cry.

Instead we’ve commercialized hospitality. In his history of Starbucks, Taylor Clark argues that the secret of Starbuck’s success is not in its coffee, but “the pull of the coffeehouse as a place.” When sociologist Roy Oldenburg coined the term “third place” to describe a neutral gathering spot that’s neither home or work, “the company,” Clark writes, “now had its philanthropic rallying cry: it wasn’t a coffee company, but a third place bringing people together through the social glue of coffee.” Starbuck’s research showed that people wanted “a cozy social atmosphere above all else. … For those seeking a refuge from the world, the cup of coffee they bought was really just the price of admission to partake of the coffeehouse scene. Starbucks is selling us hospitality.

Hotels were the first to commercialize hospitality. In the past ordinary households opened their homes to strangers. In the Medieval period monasteries provided a resting place for travelers and cared for the ill. We get the word “hospital” from their “hospitality” to the sick. “In pre-industrial cities, public eateries were classless, and rich and poor often shared the same table, just as they lived together in the same street.” But a breed of eating-house, the restaurant, originating in Paris, broke from this. “Restaurants presented an entirely new way of eating out. Anyone, including women, could go off a menu, and pay for it separately.” Public dining could now be done in isolation. Now television shows and cookbooks sell the idea of hospitality back to us as they encourage us to remake hospitality in the image of restaurant cuisine. Sharing a family meal has been replaced by the fancy dinner party.

There’s nothing wrong with eating out or hosting a special meal—indeed there’s a lot right with it. But somewhere along the line the commercialization of meals has cost us something precious. Hospitality has become performance art, and we’ve lost the creation of intimacy around a meal.

There are a few quick takeaways for me:

  • One of the wisest things Aileen and I did when we first got married was ensure that we had no television in the house. One of the most foolish things we did was introduce one as soon as she got pregnant. More foolish still was eating far too many meals in front of it.
  • We can use Starbucks and other coffeehouses for all kinds of good reasons, but we can also use them as a means of avoiding true hospitality by inviting people in our homes.
  • Hospitality is noble, but can become prideful when it is more about the performance than the simple joy of relating to one another around the table.
  • At at time when true hospitality is becoming a lost art, Christians have the opportunity to be biblically counter-cultural by inviting people into our homes and inviting them to share meals with us.

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” Romans 12:13


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Memories: Roadside Tables, Summer Vacations, and Joy

As a child, one of my fondest memories was our family’s summer vacation. Dad was a mechanic and insisted the car have a full checkup before taking it out on the road. We had a Buick Electra 225 (or “deuce and quarter” as it was called at the time). It was a monster car, which we needed for our family of six. Dad would change the oil, check the tires, change fuses, and so on to make sure the car was roadworthy.

While Dad was busy outside with the car, Mom would be inside frying up some chicken. Now, EVERYONE in my family knows that my maternal grandmother’s fried chicken could put KFC out of business, but my mom was a very close second (and she’d quickly agree and gladly take 2nd place to Grandma). She’d cover the chicken with foil, add some potato salad, sandwich bread (which we called “white bread”), Texas Pete, and canned sodas, and we were ready for the road!

Mind you, this was our BIG family vacation. No hotels or stayovers were ever involved (they were expensive and my dad was going to sleep in his own bed), no takeouts or restaurants, no big ticket items…at all. We’d start out in the morning, and Dad would surprise us with a day in Wilmington, or a trip to the Outer Banks, or a new museum in one of the small towns in Eastern NC.

One of the highlights of our vacation, was stopping at a roadside table to enjoy Mom’s lunch, stretch our legs, and take a little breather. Does anyone remember roadside tables?? At various points along a highway, just on the side of the road, there would be a small area with a picnic table and sometimes a small grill. On major roads, you could often find a roadside park, with walking trails and a covered picnic area. On interstate highways, you’d find the rest areas that many of us are familiar with–nice, air conditioned building with tourist info, water fountains, toilets, playground equipment, walking trails and so on. But for us, nothing was quite like the quaint little roadside tables to get a little respite on our day trip. My siblings and I would run around the woodsy area to burn off some energy. We’d chat and play for an hour or so, load up the car again and be on our way.

Today, vacations are so complicated. Lots of time and money are put into making lasting family memories, memories that for many children only last until they’re carted off to the next event or location. Also, it seems that today these small family outings are so commonplace, there’s less appreciation for the time that parents put into giving their children full, fun, educational and memorable times together.

Reflecting on this reminds me that sometimes memories are built on events and places, like roadside tables, amusement parks, beaches and the like. But more importantly, memories are created by people, for people. I don’t remember every place our dad took us on those summer day trips. I don’t remember much about the conversations we had while eating our lunch at the roadside table. What I do remember is how I felt–the love of family, the joy of being together, the anticipation of experiencing something new and different together.

Vacation, rest, family time, work, and food are all good gifts from the Lord, which He means for us to receive with thanksgiving, pursue with joy and to view as paltry when compared to the glory that awaits us in the world to come.

So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 8:15

Commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry says we are “cheerfully to enjoy what God has given us in the world, to be content with it and make the best of it”.

So, enjoy your summer vacation!


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Sold for a Bag of Flour


co-authored by Joyce and Josetta Moore (my mom and sister)

In July of 1991, an elderly white couple drove their pickup truck into my grandparent’s driveway. The old woman sat in the driver’s seat, trying to console her distraught husband. As my grandmother pushed her walker toward the vehicle, the old man, through uncontrollable tears, cried, “My brother’s dead! My brother’s dead.” Grandma, in need of comfort herself, rubbed Mr. Younce on the hand, consoling him in his grief.

My grandmother’s name was Inez. The man who was dead was her husband, Charles “Bryant” Woodley. Mr. Younce had just heard that my grandpa was dead. When Mr. Younce said “brother,” it wasn’t church lingo or street talk. He really meant brother, someone who had grown up with him in his family.

Their story began in 1916, when my great-grandfather, Job, made a decision for his family that would change my grandfather’s life forever. My grandfather, Bryant, was the middle child in a family of 8, and times were hard, real hard. Difficulties mounted so that Job could no longer provide for his household.

He knew of the Younce family who owned a sawmill in their area of Macon, GA. Job went there with two of his younger sons and offered to give the boys over to the Younces as workers in exchange for food. Mr. Younce agreed to take eight year old Bryant, and gave Job a bag of flour to seal the exchange.

Bryant was raised with the Younce children, but never had any formal education. He spent his life doing household chores and working in the Younce family lumber yard. The Younces traveled over a period of years from Georgia, to Florida, to Virginia, young Bryant in tow. Upon leaving Virginia, they decided to move to North Carolina, this time bringing with them a truckload of 12 African American men. These men worked for the Younce family for many years in the lumber yards of eastern North Carolina, many of them becoming lifelong friends. Charlie Bryant worked with the family for over 73 years.

As a young child, I never knew the Younces very well, but I do remember visiting Granddaddy at the lumber yard on many occasions, stacking wood to earn money for candy and ice cream. Two of the Younce sons, James and Earl (and his wife Daisy), were like brothers to Granddaddy.

Over the years, as I’ve tried to process the relationship my grandfather had with the Younces, many conflicting thoughts and emotions came to mind. How difficult must it have been for Great-grandpa Job to let go of his young son? Was this some sort of post-reconstruction slave trade, Granddaddy being sold for a bag of flour? How many of the other children were “sold off” for a bag of flour or a side of beef or less? As his life unfolded in the midst of the Jim Crow South, how were the Younces publicly portraying their relationship to Granddaddy—as guardians or employers?

I don’t have any of the answers, but I am grateful that the Younces cared for Granddaddy and made him part of their family.

The tears that Earl Younce cried when Granddaddy died, the ways in which they cared for Grandma afterwards, all attest to a love that can’t be fully explained or understood with merely family history. That bag of flour bought for them a bond truly built on blood, sweat and tears, and love that crossed boundaries.

Note: Thanks to Noel Piper for allowing me to participate in her Black History Month guest post!